901 FC Gathers Momentum with Saint Louis Looming 

901 FC Gathers Momentum with Saint Louis Looming

A draw in the USL gets you one point, but sometimes such a result can feel like a win or a draw. For Memphis 901 FC, it probably hews closer to the latter. Having dominated for almost 90 minutes during a first home game after project restart, Tim Howard and co. left home turf with a 2-2 draw against the visiting Charlotte Independence.

So far this season, 901 FC has two points off two losses and two draws. The last two matches have seen Coach Tim Mulqueen’s men put out some pretty impressive performances, but to keep the momentum going, they’ll need two things we saw last weekend against Charlotte: a collective commitment on both sides of the ball, and moments of individual brilliance. Yes, that may seem obvious, but when even the best laid plans aren’t quite coming off, it takes a little bit of stardust to unlock a stubborn defense.

click to enlarge 901 FC celebrates Brandon Allen's opener in the 16th minute. - ERIC GLEMSER
  • Eric Glemser
  • 901 FC celebrates Brandon Allen's opener in the 16th minute.

Through the first quarter of an hour, Memphis kept Charlotte from having any sort of sustained possession in dangerous areas. That dominance paid off in the 15th minute via the left-sided players all working together. From a throw-in on Memphis’ defensive half, Rece Buckmaster made a long toss forward, which was flicked on by Rafa Mentzingen. Striker Brandon Allen, who had dropped deep, bodied a Charlotte out of the way to clear path for Keanu Marsh-Brown, who duly obliged and raced upfield. The winger drew the attention of two Charlotte players, leaving them disorganized in transition and opening up a large vacuum of space outside the Independence’s box. When Marsh-Brown was fouled on the wing, Mentzingen, who had followed up the play, latched on to the loose ball and drive into the 18. He easily skipped past the Charlotte backline before crossing to Allen, who tapped in at the back post. It was a good team goal, with players operating on the same wavelength, reading each others’ positioning, and playing off the open space to craft a quality goal.

click to enlarge Fullback Rece Buckmaster produced a fine individual effort for 901 FC's second goal against Charlotte. - ERIC GLEMSER
  • Eric Glemser
  • Fullback Rece Buckmaster produced a fine individual effort for 901 FC's second goal against Charlotte.

901 FC’s second goal encapsulated that oh-so-crucial individual magic sometimes required to win games, but again, was helped along by Memphis’ sustained pressure. Putting defenders through unrelenting spells of pressure is more likely to lead to a mistake, and that’s exactly what happened when Allen sent in a cross in the 56th minute. Charlotte centerback Hugh Roberts whiffed on his attempted clearance, leaving the ball bobbling in the box. Buckmaster, who had stayed forward after a counterattack, seized on the loose ball, faked out Roberts as he cut left, and then calmly slotted into the back of the net. It’s the kind of composure you expect from a seasoned attacker, not your fullback, but it was just rewards for Memphis’ dominant performance.

On the defensive end, both goals conceded can be chalked up to freak occurrences. The first Charlotte equalizer came out of nothing in the first half, the product of a set piece cheaply given away outside the box in the 51st. For the second equalizer, well, it sure looked like centerback Zach Carroll got shoved to the ground in the build up. Unfortunately, it was a no-call from the referee.

Either way, Memphis can take a lot of positives from last weekend’s performance. The Carroll and Triston Hodge pairing seems very solid defensively, while adding Leston Paul to the midfield gave it more steel, especially when Mentzingen and Michael Reed worked their socks off to help out the backline. That solidity will be crucial in tomorrow’s match at AutoZone Park.

The visiting Saint Louis FC is coming off two wins against quality opposition (Indy Eleven and Louisville City). However, Saint Louis was outshot 39-9 in those matches, also riding its luck against some poor finishing from the opposition. Tomorrow’s visitors don’t create many chances, but have proved to be clinical with what they do produce. Memphis will need another fully committed showing from its defense and midfield to avoid giving Saint Louis, and its danger man Tyler Blackwood, a sniff of goal. If 901 FC plays like it did last weekend against Charlotte, Bluff City may very well see a first victory of the campaign.

Quick Notes

- I’m curious to see what Cal Jennings can produce in a full 90 minutes. He’s had a huge impact off the bench, scoring late against Atlanta and creating a gilt-edged chance for Duane Muckette against Charlotte.

- Eleven of Memphis' 17 shots came inside the box. If just one or two more of those goes into the back of the net, these tight draws will turn into wins.

- AutoZone Park deftly handled fans returning to the stadium. Craig Unger and 901 FC are certainly going the extra mile to ensure that everyone closely follows safety protocols to the letter.

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