Just as a penalty shootout looked certain to decide the game on Tuesday night, Memphis 901 FC found a goal from Jeremy Kelly in the fourth minute of stoppage time after extra time to defeat One Knoxville SC on the road and advance to the Third Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
This was the first meeting between the two cross-state opponents, marking One Knoxville’s debut in the US Open Cup in their second match as a professional club.
With the result, Memphis notches their first victory of their 2023 campaign, following two losses and a draw in the USL Championship. The win is also their first in the US Open cup since 2019.
The match opened with intense, back-and-forth physical play from both sides, though neither was quick to make attempts toward the goal. Though not an exceptionally brutal game, the close-quarters, technical play styles created many opportunities to push the limits of contact and draw a number of fouls. Over the course of the night, each team earned four yellow cards and more than 20 fouls.
The first goal pierced the night and quieted the cheering Knoxville crowd in the 39th minute. Aaron Molloy won a free kick and sent a cross towards the center of the box. There, Dylan Borczak connected with the ball and headed it into the left side of the net.
After the half, One Knoxville returned with force, attempting a handful of close shots that keeper Bill Hamid saved to slow the momentum. A veteran of the men’s national team with eight appearances, Hamid made this his second appearance for Memphis.
Ilija Ilic leveled the score in the 57th minute on a penalty kick goal, passing to the right of Hamid as he dove to block the shot.
One Knoxville continued to control the pace of the game for most of the remainder of regulation. Memphis’ first shot to the goal only came in the 78th minute. No one was able to find the final push to put the ball in the net, sending the match to extra time.
Strong defense from One Knoxville defined the first period of extra time, and it largely resembled the second half – play up and down the pitch with little to show for either team’s efforts. The crowd surged to support the home side as it returned for the second period, and both sides seemed desperate to end play before a shootout.
Then, in the final moments of stoppage time, a Memphis corner floated to the box amid a sea of players. It dropped to the ground, where Kelly found it after a beat to slam the deciding goal to the bottom left corner of the net.
Memphis 901 head coach Stephen Glass appreciated the growth from his players after a tough start to their season. He credited the victory to a respect for their opponent and preparation to battle through the length of the match.
“It’s a reward for the effort the boys put in. It’s a testament to their fitness, and their levels, and their drive to go win,” explained Glass. “ were very good, let’s give them a lot of credit. They were very well drilled and had a great quality. I’m pleased to get through, and I’m pleased that the boys got the winner before the penalties. I think the team are close, and a win like tonight makes them feel better about themselves.”
Memphis 901 won’t learn their Round 3 opponent until the draw takes place later this week.