By: Caleb Hilliard
Earlier this week, Memphis suffered yet another one-goal loss, this time on the road against two-time league champions Louisville City FC.
Tim Mulqueen made a few alterations to the starting lineup, but to no avail. Louisville outplayed Memphis for nearly 90 minutes. Memphis finished the match with less than 40 percent possession and a pass accuracy of 64 percent. The loss should be a wakeup call for the team as they return home to face a beatable Birmingham Legion side.
Birmingham have not looked impressive through their last three matches.
The Legion played out a lackluster 0-0 draw at home versus the Swope Park Rangers on April 20. The following week, Birmingham narrowly edged Loudon United FC 1-0 in unconvincing fashion. The Legion suffered their worst defeat of the season last week, falling 0-5 at New York Red Bulls II.
901FC needs a win this weekend to be back on track in the league table. Birmingham are not in prime form, meaning Memphis should take advantage and accrue all three points.
What to watch for: Birmingham Legion
Despite their poor form in recent weeks, Birmingham are off to a decent start through seven matches.
The Legion currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 3-3-1.
Their best performances this season have come on the road.
Birmingham defeated Louisville 3-2 thanks to Brian Wright’s match-winning goal in the 87th minute.
The following week, the Legion pulled off another 3-2 upset win, this time at Saint Louis FC. Substitute J.J. Williams stole the show with two goals in the last 15 minutes of the match.
Birmingham have fallen off since pulling off back-to-back upset road wins and have one goal in their last three matches.
NYRB II exposed the Birmingham defense in their last match, and Memphis could potentially score three or more goals for the first time this season.
Outside of Williams’ two-goal performance as a substitute, Birmingham’s players have not had any standout performances.
One player does jump off the screen when watching film: the team’s number 10, Prosper Kasim. The forward is always looking to play that final through ball and he possesses great field vision. He has appeared in all seven matches this season and has a passing completion percentage of 80 percent. He is Birmingham’s biggest threat in the final third, with a team-high 14 chances created.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
Prior to Tuesday’s 1-2 loss at Louisville City, Memphis seemed to be improving. The defense began to play as a unit and the offense’s chemistry was staring to come together.
Saturday’s match against Birmingham is a chance for Head Coach Mulqueen and the rest of the team get their confidence back.
Memphis is becoming one of the better passing teams in the USL Championship and have attempted 3,774 passes this season, the second most in the league.
Birmingham are not an efficient passing team and often have less possession than their opponents. Memphis have looked better in matches where they have more possession and are able to cut passing lanes.
We should see the midfield duo of Ewan Grandison and Cameron Lindley. The two are effective in intercepting passes and bring a physical element to the 901 FC midfield. If the pair can sit back and create space for players like Adem Najem, then Memphis is a goal scoring threat.
Newly acquired forward Jochan Graf gives the Memphis offense a different look. Graf now has two appearances and one start since his arrival. He may not have any goals, but his experience is evident.
Graf could get on the scoresheet against Birmingham, and if he does, it will reignite the 901 FC attack.
Where to watch:
The match is set to kickoff at 3:00 p.m. at AutoZone Park. The match will be broadcasted locally on CW30 and nationally on ESPN+.
The 901 FC’s following match is at Hartford Athletic on Saturday, May 10.
(photo: Memphis 901 FC)