By: Caleb Hilliard
The newfangled rivalry between Memphis 901 FC and Nashville SC is one of the more emotional derbies in the USL Championship.
As we say in the south, ‘Good ole fashioned hate.’
Both cities are perpetually attempting to outdo each other whether it is food, music etc. Until recently, the rivalry did not necessarily pertain to professional sports.
If Nashville stays in the USL for the coming seasons, expect to see multiple high-spirited matches in this derby.
Nashville claimed the first win in April, but Memphis have a chance to avenge the 0-2 loss at Nashville and move up the standings.
What to watch for: Nashville SC
The middle Tennessee foes are enjoying a successful 2019 campaign thus far. Through 18 matches, head coach Gary Smith and co. are sixth in the Eastern Conference with 29 points and a record of 8-5-5.
After their 0-1 loss to the league-leaders, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Nashville went on a seven match unbeaten tear.
Recently, the team has fallen out of form.
They lost 0-1 in a crucial match at North Carolina FC, on June 29. A win or draw would have kept Nashville atop NCFC in the standings. They now trail NCFC by two points for the fourth spot in the table.
A week later, Nashville were leapfrogged by another team in the Eastern Conference standings, Louisville City FC. Nashville failed to force the draw in the final minutes and fell 1-2 at Louisville.
The two-match losing streak means that Nashville are hungry and desperate for a win at Memphis.
Nashville are one of the more well-rounded sides in USL. They rank 8th in goals scored (31) and 7th in clean sheets (6).
Their catalyst is one of the best strikers in USL, Daniel Rios. The forward leads the Eastern Conference with 11 goals and is second in the entire league.
Rios is on his way to an MLS team or possibly a league outside the United States.
Nashville run a 3-4-1-2 formation with Rios and Ropapa Mensah at the top. Skillful attacking midfielder Lebo Moloto plays behind the two strikers.
The weak point of Nashville’s formation are the wide midfielders.
The two flanking midfielders often play high up the pitch and can be exposed on counter attacks.
The back three is anchored by Justin Davis. The center-back is the team’s best defender and is a threat going forward due to his passing. Davis is second on the team with three assists and has attempted the ninth most crosses in the Eastern Conference (78).
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
In their previous meeting, Memphis opted to play defensively for the first half and the decision was not effective.
The 901 FC need to score first on Wednesday and pressure Nashville to move numbers up the pitch.
Arguably the strong suit of the 901 FC’s offense are their counter attacks. If they score early, the counter attacks will come, and Memphis need to take advantage of every goal-scoring chance.
Strikers Elliot Collier and Brandon Allen are starting to coalesce. The pair needed a few matches to establish chemistry and now it is time for Allen to get on the scoresheet.
Allen is no stranger to putting the ball in the net, but he has yet to score in a Memphis jersey.
The 901 FC’s assist leaders Cameron Lindley and Adam Najem will be impactful in this match. They are the most effective facilitators on the team. The pair can open up a match with their vertical passing. When they are in tune with their teammates, most oppositions do not have an answer.
Another passing threat is Marc Burch. The center-back often looks for gaps in the opposing defenses to play long-passes. He can start a fast-break at any moment.
When and Where?
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at AutoZone Park and Memphis Tigers coach, Penny Hardaway will be the honorary ‘guitar smasher’ prior to kickoff.
The match can be seen locally on CW30 and nationally on ESPN+.