And what a moment it was for the Boys in Gold at GEODIS Park, their 30,000-seat venue that opened just the other weekend.
The hosts rallied from two-nil down to beat Atlanta United by a 3-2 scoreline, an incredible comeback that’s among the Music City club’s most stirring moments in their third year of MLS existence.
“I don’t think there’s an awful lot I could say to describe the events,” manager Gary Smith said. “Just a flat-out cup tie that I think every single fan that was in the stadium would have enjoyed. Atlanta were better than us first half and we were better than them second half.
“It took a monumental effort to turn around a difficult start, but in the end I think we showed all the characteristics of a team that has so much spirit, so much fight, so much character.”
The Five Stripes were in cruise control inside 30 minutes, with goals from Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo stunning the hosts. In Smith’s view, it was a moment that reinforced ATLUTD’s quality and why those Designated Players cost a reported near-$30 million combined to acquire.
But Nashville responded in the second half to book a Round of 16 spot in this year’s Open Cup, starting with Hany Mukhtar’s 50th-minute penalty kick and carrying through CJ Sapong’s 92nd-minute equalizer that prompted extra time. Ethan Zubak then scored in the 93rd minute on a breakaway, his first in NSC colors since joining via an offseason trade from the LA Galaxy.
With the score flipped, Nashville extended their home unbeaten streak to 22 consecutive matches across all competitions.
“Cup games are all about passion and belief and determination,” Smith said. “If you want to win a cup, a cup competition, a knockout competition, you’ve got to leave it all out there. There’s no draws, there’s no we get a point for that and well done. There has to be a very different attitude to it. And the second half we saw that, unfortunately in the first half we didn’t.”
Nashville are now unbeaten in their last five matches against Atlanta, with Smith noting there’s a “rivalry that’s really warming between us and them.” The Southern neighbors are in different conferences this year, but meet again in league play May 21 at GEODIS Park – a match that’ll now have some extra spice.
In the meantime, Smith hailed the Coyotes’ comeback belief and what 12,375 fans witnessed midweek.
“I think we’ve set a really good standard here for our fans, and they’ve been fantastic for us,” Smith said. “They turned up tonight like not too many other teams and we appreciated that massively because it helps when you find yourself in that difficult position. You need a little bit of a pick-me-up.”