A 5-4 aggregate loss might not be what the organization had in mind for its first two games, but Memphis City Football Club can walk away proud from its first competitive efforts. The I-40 Cup, fought between Memphis City FC and Little Rock Rangers, was a pre-season tournament with an aim to capture the "I-40 Trophy" and, more importantly, possession of the I-40 Traffic Cone given to the current title-holder. While this could plant the seeds for a relatively new rivalry, the final score line of the two-legged affair suggests thrilling, end-to-end games could be in store for local soccer fans.
Memphis City FC picks up the soccer mantle long since vacated by the Bluff City's last organization, the Memphis Rogues. That team began playing at the Liberty Bowl in 1978 but quickly moved into a downward spiral that would end three years later with the team's exile to, and finally, its dissolution in Canada.
Memphis Rogues head coach Malcolm Allison's brief tenure began with a failure to sign enough eligible outfield players. His pre-season blunder pushed him out the door before the season began and contributed to the issues that plagued the team for the rest of the season. The Rogues finished third in the division and missed the playoffs.
Things only got worse from there. The following season, the players went on strike, leading to a disastrous last-place finish. That, coupled with a dwindling fan base, led to an abject third season that forced the owners to sell the club. New ownership moved the team to Alberta, Canada. After a solitary season in new territory, the franchise closed.
Such mistakes might seem like a distant memory, but Memphis City FC's owners made sure everything was in place for a stable foundation this time around. Co-founders Doug Kranz and Dan Collins are both passionate about the game and have experience at the grass-roots level. Their drive to start a team was fueled by their love of the game and a desire to provide more for local fans.
"Dan and I met to discuss how we wish there was more for the [soccer] fans in the area," says Kranz, who is also the president of Memphis City FC. With a clear vision in mind, Kranz and Collins fixated on the best league for Memphis. "We found the NPSL [National Premier Soccer League] is a perfect match because it's a U.S. Soccer Federation-recognized league that really affords business owners freedom to operate."
With their options open, Kranz and Collins were able to look for candidates to fit their vision of what the team would be. Their selections provide a mix of local and global experience. Matt Williams, last year's assistant coach for the University of Memphis, has been chosen to lead Memphis' new soccer team, while board members Tom Byer and Mads Davidsen have international experience working with some of the top coaches and professionals involved in the game.
Kranz and Collins made their appointments with Memphis City's playing philosophy firmly in mind. "On the offensive side, we're both big fans of ball possession," Kranz says. "We want players who can bring very strong foot skills and understand how to play a patient yet penetrating style." A possession-heavy game is utilized by some of the top European teams, such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and has led both organizations to sustained success over the past few years. In addition, the possession game makes for a much more entertaining experience for both casual and hardcore fans, as it promotes an attacking style of play.
Memphis City's home game against Little Rock, a 3-3 draw at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex, showcased early signs of an offensive playing system. While it takes time to implement that style, the team was finally able to take to the field this week for their first official training sessions with a full roster. Backed up by the fan group, Rogue Squadron, look for Memphis City Football Club to live up to its motto of "Memphis Rising" when the regular season begins on May 7th.