901 FC Falls to the Defending Champions 

901 FC found itself back on the road after the late heartbreak against Charleston. There’s no rest for the weary, however, and Memphis’ next opponent came with pedigree. Louisville City FC have won the last two USL championships, and 901 FC's 2-1 loss proved the Kentucky side was no slouch.

click to enlarge Scott Levene played in his first start for the club - 901 FC
  • 901 FC
  • Scott Levene played in his first start for the club

Memphis coach Tim Mulqueen made a few changes to his side ahead of the game. Goalkeeper Scott Levene stepped between the posts for his first start as a 901 FC player, while Jochen Graf took point up top alongside Elliot Collier. With no Adam Najem in the lineup, Cameron Lindley had the opportunity to showcase his passing display while patrolling the midfield alongside Ewan Grandison. The 4-4-2 came out of the blocks strong; while Louisville showed off some tidy one-touch passing, most of its ball movement didn’t threaten Memphis. Meanwhile, 901 FC pressed high up the pitch. Morgan Hackworth, whose father, John, is the head coach for Louisville, presented himself all over the field, looking for the ball and providing outlets for his teammates either in the center of the pitch or closer to the opponent’s box. The aggressive approached forced multiple turnovers from a nervous Louisville backline, but beyond the high press, Memphis struggled to impose their attacking play.

Louisville eventually opened the scoring via an unlucky pratfall. Todd Pratzner slipped as a low cross came into the box. It bounced off the defender’s head as he tried to recover and dropped perfectly for opposing midfielder Magnus Rasmussen to power past Levene.

At that point, Louisville seemed odds on to walk away with the victory, as Memphis couldn’t put together many passages of play in the opponent’s final third. Collier was a spectator most of the game, unable to unleash his direct running and dribbling skills to create chances for his teammates. Going forward, Jochen Graf looks like a promising addition. The few times he was played in behind, he always looked for an opportunity to get a shot off, a tendency that some of his teammates are hesitant to do. He still needs a bit more time to gel with his teammates, however.

Pratzner was, unfortunately, again culpable for Louisville’s second goal when he whiffed a routine clearance. The ball flew behind him and into the path of Louisville’s Abdou Mbacke Thiam, who raced to the box and squared for teammate Lucky Mkosana to score from close range.

Memphis turned to some of its more dynamic players through the rest of the game, throwing on Rashawn Dally and Najem, but it didn’t quite make up the difference. Levene made a huge, Caldwell-esque save before Thiam somehow contrived to score an own goal in the 71st minute to put Memphis back in the game. Unfortunately, Memphis couldn't find the equalizer. There’s no shame in losing to the two-time defending champions, especially during a hectic schedule. Some players look tired, but hopefully a few days to chill back in Bluff City will help them recover in time for Birmingham at AutoZone Park on Saturday.

Quick Notes

Memphis looked blunt at times without Najem and Dally. The former’s quick passing and flicks are key to unlocking a defense, and he’s been involved with some of Memphis’ best passages of play this season. Dally, when he’s up for it, is a willing runner who gets into good positions in the box. Hopefully with some rest they’ll both be raring to go on Saturday.

Levene was a little shaky at times coming out to meet crosses, but couldn't do much about both goals. He did make a big save to keep the score at 2-0, and showed his worth as a shot-stopper.

While Louisville created a few decent chances, 901 FC’s defense still looks pretty good other than the defensive errors. Burch has marshaled the unit into a solid and capable backline, but needs the attack to relieve the pressure.

The results haven’t always been a fair reflection on Memphis’ performances, but the team is currently mired in a six-game winless streak. One of the forwards needs to step up soon for a big goal and put minds at ease. Still, a couple of wins should put them right back into contention for a top 10 position.

Up next is Birmingham Legion, who is just three spots above Memphis in the standings. It’s the perfect match to get the season back on track and aim for a playoff spot.

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