The long-awaited Memphis 901 FC season is finally here. The match marks the first home game in the team’s history. 901 FC’s manager, Tim Mulqueen, wants his team to start the regular season with a win.
Memphis’s first test will not be an easy one, as they face a team with a deep USL history, the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
What to watch for: Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Rowdies finished 12th in the USL Eastern Conference standings in 2018, scoring 44 goals and conceding 44 goals.
According to USLchampionship.com, the Rowdies are ranked 11th in the USL Championship’s preseason power-rankings.
Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins, returns two of his top forwards for the 2019 season.
Leo Fernandes and Sebastian Guenzatti combined for eight goals, five assists and created 53 chances in the 2018 season.
Collins bolstered his roster by adding Nashville SC’s 2018 leading goal-scorer, Brandon Allen.
The New Jersey native scored eight goals and two assists in 2018. He leads the Rowdies in preseason goals with three.
Tampa Bay played eight preseason matches with a record of 5-2-1 (W-L-D). They capped off the preseason with a 2-1 win over the USF Bulls.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
Mulqueen and the Memphis 901 FC organization have been in the process of accruing a roster that will compete with the rest of the USL.
The task is not easy but over a seven-month span the roster has come together nicely.
Defender Marc Burch heads up the roster as captain of Memphis 901 FC. He spent the last 13 seasons in the MLS, playing for the likes of LA Galaxy, D.C. United, Seattle Sounders FC and the Colorado Rapids. Burch played alongside Tim Howard, one of the 901 FC’s owners, during 2016-17. Burch most recently played for Minnesota United where he appeared in 21 MLS matches last season.
The majority of the roster is young and only has a few years of professional soccer experience. The ages range from 21-years-old to 34-years-old with the average age of 24-years-old.
After going to a few preseason matches and practices, I was able to identify a few possible standout players.
Team captain, Burch, is obviously the leader of the team. He was the perpetually barking out instructions to his teammates and would occasionally make effective runs down the pitch in order to string play together.
Cuban forward, Heviel Cordovés, also bring experience to the team at 29-years-old. He spent the past six seasons in the USL. The 6’2 striker netted thrice in preseason and added an assist. He possesses the ability to break down defenders with his dribbling and also has enough speed to make threatening runs.
Honduran forward, Junior Sandoval, also brings experience to the team with nine USL season under his belt. He impressed in preseason with two goals and one assists. Sandoval is a likely started for the inaugural match.
American-born Afghani international, Adem Najem, is the team’s number 10 and is one of the more skilled players on the roster. He appeared in nine matches for the Philadelphia Union during the 2017-18 MLS season, before being loaned out to USL-side, Bethlehem Steele. He came up through the New York Red Bulls youth system. Najem is a playmaker and will likely be week-in-week-out starter for Mulqueen.