901 FC Thrashes Hartford to Continue Surge 

It really couldn’t have been easier for Jochen Graf. Having struggled so far to get off the mark for 901 FC, he bagged himself two goals during a 4-0 rout of Hartford Athletic at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex and could have had even more. For now, Memphis’ U.S. Open Cup adventure continues after one of the team’s best attacking performances all season.

Really, it was obvious from the first whistle that Memphis was going to run away with it. Coach Tim Mulqueen made the right call picking Elliot Collier up front, whose direct running and dribbling was sure to trouble the Hartford defense. Sure enough, the breakthrough came in the 6th minute after Collier proved too fleet of foot for Hartford’s Logan Gdula and drew a penalty that captain Marc Burch dispatched with ease.

click to enlarge Graf celebrates with Adam Najem after opening his account for Memphis - 901 FC
  • 901 FC
  • Graf celebrates with Adam Najem after opening his account for Memphis
From there, it was all one-way traffic. The Memphis players looked as if they were enjoying themselves, pulling out tricks, flicks, and one-touch passing sequences in an effort to add to their tally. Hartford, rooted to the bottom of the USL Eastern Conference Standings, left large swathes of space for the Memphis attackers to run into. Graf gamely chased every ball, while Collier attempted to make the highlight reel by attempting to take on every Hartford defender at once.

With Memphis running riot, Hartford committed plenty of fouls. One such infraction led to the second goal of the night in the 21st minute. Cam Lindley chipped a freekick into the box, and Graf was on hand to read the resulting knockdown and slot home for his first Memphis goal. Afterward, Hartford finally deigned to show signs of life, but their only great chance of the match (after a Memphis defensive error) was cleared off the line by Lindley. Backup goalkeeper Scott Levene really didn’t have much to do all game.

Defender Jacob Hauser-Ramsey had a set-piece goal disallowed, but it didn’t take long after halftime for Memphis to add a third. Duane Muckette received the ball with space, spun to shrug off his defender, and slipped a perfect through-ball to Collier, who squared to Graf for the easiest of tap-ins to make it 3-0 to Memphis in the 59th minute. But Collier wasn’t done there. Two minutes later, he shrugged off two players in the center circle, hurdled another challenge as he drove forward, and slipped the ball to Graf in the middle. Covering Hartford defender Sem de Wit slid in to deny the opportunity but smacked the ball with his hand. The referee brandished a second yellow card and de Wit was off.

The rest of the game played out as a procession. Memphis backed off a little bit, while the ten men of Hartford produced little on their end. As the game wound down, 901 FC added a fourth. Dan Metzger saw his shot saved, but Hartford keeper Jacob Lissek could only parry it to the on-rushing Morgan Hackworth, who bundled it home. Four on the night, and seven goals in Memphis’ last two U.S. Open Cup performances.

The next cup game won’t be so easy, however. Up next for Memphis is a prime matchup with Orlando City FC, a Major League Soccer side. The Florida squad features Portugeuse star and former Manchester United winger Nani, who over the course of his career has produced some pretty spectacular moments. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of game plan Mulqueen comes up with to face an MLS team, but with Memphis flying high after yesterday’s performance and a five-game unbeaten streak, anything’s possible.

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