By: Caleb Hilliard
Memphis 901 FC face possibly their easiest road test of the year versus fellow expansion team, Hartford Athletic.
The Athletics have a goal differential of -18 and only have one point through nine matches. However, they played at home for the first time last week and forced a 1-1 draw with the Charlotte Independence in front of 11,346 fans at Pratt and Whitney Stadium.
Hartford may not have the statistical advantage over the 901 FC but their fans will surely play and integral part. Traveling over 1,200 miles to pull off a win in front of 11,000+ screaming fans is a daunting task for Tim Mulqueen and company.
All signs point to a road win for the 901 FC.
Memphis left their goal draught in the past and have three goals in their last two matches. The offense is coming together just in time to face the team who have the worst defensive rating in the Eastern Conference.
What to watch for: Hartford Athletic
Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen experimented with a 4-1-4-1 formation through most of the season thus far, with little success. Hartford showed little discipline at the back and their fullbacks were often caught out of position on counter attacks. The Athletics were outscored 3-18 through their first seven matches.
Nielson switched to two strikers and four traditional midfielders in Hartford’s last two matches. They lost by three to North Carolina FC but managed to score and drew 1-1 in the following match.
Hartford showed signs of life in the draw against the Independence. They moved the ball around with purpose in the opposition’s half and showed improvements at the back. The Athletics outshot the Independence 11-8 and finished with a pass accuracy of 78 percent.
The striker tandem of Alex Dixon and Mac Steeves looked threatening at times and Mulqueen is likely devising a game plan to keep the pair scoreless.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
Memphis does not shy away and sit back in road matches.
They earned the first win of the season at the Bethlehem Steele.
The 901 FC nearly forced two of the top teams in the league, New York Red Bull II and Louisville City FC, to drop points, scoring three goals in the process.
Tim Mulqueen and his squad had a rough April with four straight losses, but this team is still learning how to play together and the season is young.
After losing four straight, Memphis drew 2-2 at home in a controversial match against Birmingham. The draw was their best offensive performance thus far.
Adem Najem is coming into his role as the number 10 and he proved his worth in the last match. He is in fine form and can open up the opposition’s backline with one timed pass. He will be an impact player at Hartford.
Defensively, center-half Tristan Hodge has arguably been one of the best players of the season so far. He is building important chemistry next to Marc Burch and is rarely beaten in one-on-one scenarios.
Hodge and the rest of the defense will look to keep their second clean sheet on the road against Hartford.