After a stretch of three home matches, 901 FC hits the road to battle Group G opponents Charlotte Independence. 901 FC’s last three bouts (a draw, a win, and a loss) have all come behind promising performances, so the upcoming road trip should see the team should be confident. It’s up to Coach Tim Mulqueen to drill that into the heads of his players as Memphis engages only in ‘six-pointers’ for the rest of the season (in soccer parlance, that’s a game that both gives you three points, and takes points away from a direct rival). And even coming off a 1-0 home loss to North Carolina last Saturday, Memphis is well poised to put another win on the board.
- photo by Eric Glemser
- Fullback Mark Segbers plays a key role for 901 FC in both attack and defense.
901 FC’s last matchup against Charlotte, a couple weeks back at AutoZone Park, saw a thoroughly dominant Memphis performance on both sides of the ball. Yet, it was a familiar tale as Charlotte capitalized on its only two decent chances to walk away with a point. After the match I noted, “The [Zach] Carroll and Triston Hodge pairing seems very solid defensively, while adding Leston Paul to the midfield gave it more steel, especially when [Rafa] Mentzingen and Michael Reed worked their socks off to help out the backline.”
Members of that nucleus have had a consistent chance to bed in and work on their understanding over the last month. Locking down the defensive side of things has had the knock-on effect of liberating the attacking players to strut their stuff in the final third, too. Keanu Marsh-Brown, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a huge catalyst for 901 FC’s dynamism going forward and is a lock to start most matches. Plus, his chemistry on the right flank with fullback Mark Segbers makes the duo almost unplayable at times. Midfielders Paul and Duane Muckette provide a stable base in the middle of the park, and either Jean-Christophe Koffi or Michael Reed can slide in to fill that third spot.
Last weekend’s match against North Carolina was a frustrating loss, but 901 FC’s overall performance shouldn’t cause too much concern. Striker Brandon Allen had plenty of scoring chances inside the box that he normally tucks away, but unfortunately had an off day. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s goal came off a sweet curling effort from their left back Akeem Ward, who of course chose Memphis as the place to score his first professional goal. All in all, the little things just didn’t go Memphis’ way. On paper, all the stats went Memphis’ way (more possession, more shots, more shots on target, and way more corners), but the intensity from previous games seemed to drop ever so slightly.
So, what needs to happen when Memphis heads down to Charlotte? The Independence have yet to keep a clean sheet in USL play this season, so Marsh-Brown and Segbers should be licking their chops at the prospect of driving towards a somewhat frail Charlotte backline. But Carroll and Hodge should also be aware of Charlotte’s threat; their top scorer Dane Kelly wasn’t available the last time these two teams met. Kelly is all-time top scorer in USL, so count him out at your peril. Ultimately, while the results haven’t been there, the performances have. The best thing 901 FC can do is to just keep doing what it’s doing.
- It's all Group G from here. There won't be any more softballs like Atlanta United 2 or St. Louis FC on the schedule. Just Birmingham, North Carolina, and Charlotte from here on out.
- Last weekend saw Marc Burch's first runout since the restart. Hoping to see more from him as the season progresses.
901 FC takes on Charlotte Independence tomorrow, August 15, at 6pm.