With a first half hat trick against Charlotte Eagles, Inter Nashville’s Chuka Aruh earned TheCup.us Player of the Round honors for the First Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Aruh scored in the 5th, 6th, and 35th minutes in a road game against the reigning PDL Champions. A Richie Reichenberger goal and a brace from Ivan Sakou rounded out a convincing 6-1 victory in front of 300 fans in Matthews, North Carolina.
The award is voted on by the staff at TheCup.us and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
Other players who received strong support were the other two players who scored hat tricks in the opening round: Cesar Castillo of FC Denver and David Ochoa of Miami United FC. Dilly Duka of FC Motown and Nate Steinwascher, the goalkeeper from Detroit City FC, also received support in what was a fairly spread out vote.
Asked when he knew he was going to have a big night, Aruh said, “Before the game, I was actually a bit anxious, but once the first goal went in, I was a lot more relaxed, the touches came easy, then after the second, I just wanted to get the ball.”
Aruh, a native of London, England, came to Nashville to train with Rich Askey at the now-defunct Nashville FC and also played at Cumberland University in Antioch, just outside Nashville. When Askey took over coaching duties for Inter Nashville one of the first calls he made was to the young Englishman. The rest is, literally, history. It was Inter’s first game in the US Open Cup, and Aruh has the club’s first ever hat trick in the competition and just the third player from an NPSL team to score a hat trick.
Aruh is also just the second England-born player to score three goals in a game in the Modern Era. (Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City in 2014)
With the win, Inter moves on to play the USL’s Nashville SC in a “Nashville Derby”. It marks the first time that two Tennessee clubs have faced each other in the history of the tournament.
“I don’t have a personal relationship with any of the guys on Nashville SC, but it’s hardly just another game for me,” said Aruh. “I feel like Inter Nashville gets overlooked around here, and I want to go out there and prove to people that Nashville SC isn’t the only team in town.”