The Atlanta Silverbacks dramatically took Real Salt Lake to extra time in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, but fell 3-2 to the Major League Soccer club.
Brian Haynes’ side recovered from conceding a goal after only three minutes by equalizing through Kellen Gulley with only three minutes remaining .
But Devon Sandoval broke Atlanta’s brave resistance during the first half of extra time with a near post finish and Khari Stephenson unleashed a rocket finish from distance to deny a spirited Silverbacks comeback. Substitute Pablo Cruz gave Atlanta late hope with a goal from almost the final kick of the game.
The occasion seemed to get to the Silverbacks in the opening stages as Joe Nasco was forced into a fine save in only the second minute from Robbie Findley’s powerful drive and the resulting corner then provided a goal. Kyle Beckerman stole in to head the ball home at the near post to earn the hosts a third minute lead.
Findley was dictating the game and played a through ball to Javier Morales, whose shot flashed across the face of goal and was inches away from making it 2-0.
The Silverbacks started to push forward and ten minutes before halftime Borfor Carr’s cross nearly found the head of Jahbari Willis in front of goal. Five minutes later Atlanta’s Mark Bloom sent in a cross that just eluded Pedro Mendes at the far post.
Danny Barrera picked up a yellow card three minutes from time as he caught Carlos Salcedo in the chest with his studs and Nasco then came to the Silverbacks’ rescue in injury time as he parried away shot from Beckerman in slippery conditions.
After the break Nasco kept out Sandoval’s close-range header and with the keeper stopping all the hosts could throw at him, the Silverbacks enjoyed a period of sustained pressure. A surging Mendes run led to a loose ball falling to Jahbari Willis, whose quick finish flashed wide and Carr delivered a dangerous cross into the box that forced a corner.
Despite the heavy rain and treacherous conditions, Nasco got down low to save at the near post to deny Joao Plata, then with the clock ticking down, Barrera and Ruben Luna combined to free Gulley who found himself in space to chip a stranded keeper and equalize.
Eight minutes into extra time, Sandoval finally beat Nasco and two minutes later Stevenson made it 3-1 with an unstoppable rising drive from outside the penalty area.
Cruz had the final say with a tricky run and a decisive finish as time expired.