by Caleb Hilliard
Memphis 901 looks to extend its unbeaten streak to three on their away trip to New York Red Bulls II. Earlier this month, Memphis drew 1-1 at home against Loudoun United FC. The following week, Tim Mulqueen and company recorded their first ever win in club history, a 1-0 victory at Bethlehem Steel FC.
The team has relied on the tenacity of their defense and will need to keep a tight line against a potent New York attack. The Red Bulls scored 74 goals during the 2018 season and finished fifth in the Western Conference.
What to watch for: New York Red Bulls II
The team began the season with a statement – a 3-1 win at home over Swope Park Rangers. St. Louis native Tom Barlow netted a brace and Marcus Epps scored the go-ahead goal.
New York is coming off of a disappointing draw with Nashville SC, and even though they did not obtain all three points, the team comes into Friday’s match with confidence. The Red Bulls enjoyed the majority of possession against Nashville and were unlucky not to come away with a win after plethora second half chances.
In 2018, the Red Bulls relied on the duo of Barlow and Jared Stroud. The pair made their mark on the USL Championship with a combined 17 goals and 13 assists. Their chemistry was evident as they terrorized opposing defenses throughout 2018. Friday’s match could be the first time the duo finds their footing in the 2019 season. Up to this point in the season, they have been on the field together for 66 out of the possible 180 minutes of play.
Another playmaker on the roster is Chicago Fire youth product Marcus Epps. The crafty winger began the 2017-18 season in the MLS – with the Philadelphia Union – and ended the season on loan at the Bethlehem Steel. The MLS side, New York Red Bulls, signed him in the offseason and will likely call him up for parts of the 2019 season. He brings plenty of top-tier experience to the team and will look to continue his form against Memphis.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
The Memphis defense has held their own through three matches, conceding two goals and recording a clean sheet against Bethlehem. The back four of Marc Burch, Wes Charpie, Todd Pratzner and Tristan Hodge is one of the better defensive units in the Eastern Conference.
The league recognized Charpie’s effectiveness in last week’s 1-0 win over Bethlehem. The Memphis defender earned a spot in the Starting XI on the USL Championship’s Team of the Week. He finished with a team-high seven clearances, had four interceptions and recoveries. Charpie deserves much of the credit for 901 FC’s first win in club history.
The defense has been the team’s strongsuit but the Memphis offense is yet to hit their stride through three matches. We could see certain forwards make their mark for the first time on Friday.
Adem Najem, the team’s number 10, has shown that he possesses the ability to take over a match with his passing and dribbling. Over two matches played, Najem has an overall passing success rate of 78 percent and an 89 percent success rate in his own half. He also won five fouls in 180 minutes and played four key passes. When Najem is in form, he is a nightmare to defend in the final third.
Where to watch
The match is set for 6 p.m. CT on March 29 at MSU Soccer Park on the campus of Montclair State University. You can watch the match on ESPN+ nationwide or locally on CW30.