By Caleb Hilliard
The 901 FC earned two crucial results on back-to-back match-days. A 2-2 comeback win against Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls II and a 2-0 win over sixth positioned Ottawa Fury.
Both results proved that Memphis possesses the quality to play with and beat the best teams in the USL Championship.
The next matchup, against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, will be difficult but with the form the 901 FC is in, I would expect Memphis take a point on the road.
The Riverhounds have eight wins this season but they also have eight draws and sit seventh in the table. Their eight draws prove that head coach Bob Lilley’s men struggle to close out matches.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT at Highmark Stadium.
What to watch for: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
The seventh positioned Riverhounds are 3-1-1 in their last five matches.
They are 5-0-5 at Highmark Stadium and 3-3-3 on the road.
Pittsburgh’s previous match against Memphis was postponed due to inclement weather, so this is the first time the teams are meeting in history.
They beat Hartford 4-2 in their previous match and are in great form heading into the match with Memphis.
Head coach Lilley likes to experiment with the formation and in the last match he instituted a 4-2-3-1. After the second goal Pittsburgh switched to a more defensive 5-3-2.
Recently they started with five defenders and rely heavily on the two-way play of the wing-backs.
Against the top teams in the league, Lilley opts to play with a more straightforward 4-3-3.
Either way, the team has built confidence over the past few matches and looks to continue their form against the 901 FC.
Forward, Neco Brett, who is part of the reason for the recent form, is perhaps the most skilled player on their roster.
Brett leads the Riverhounds with six goals and is tied for fourth in assists (2) .
He often makes timed runs into the box and relies on the facilitation of the wingbacks.
One wingback in particular, Ryan James, always looks to get forward, on the right, and whip crosses into the box. He leads the team in crossing attempts (61). James is tied for a team-high four assists.
The team’s playmaker in the midfield is Kenardo Forbes.
The Jamaican is one of the cornerstones that head coach Lilley needs in his starting XI.
He is a box-to-box midfielder and is equally dangerous on either end of the pitch.
Forbes leads Pittsburgh in passes (1,072), passing accuracy (82%), chances created (40) and is tied for the team-high(4).
If Forbes plays well, the rest of the team will follow.
Their defensive standout and vocal leader is Joseph Greenspan. The center-back leads the team in clearances (82) and rarely makes a mistake at the back.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
After the dismal 0-2 loss to Nashville, two and a half weeks ago, The 901 FC have turned things around.
All season long, Tim Mulqueen has played around with the starting lineup but now he has seemingly worked out the kinks.
He is relying on three players more than ever, at this point in the season.
Ewan Grandsion made the switch from defensive-midfielder to right-back in mid-July. He dominated in the last match against Ottawa and is becoming one of the better players on the roster.
Midfielder, Leston Paul also was a standout player against Ottawa. The veteran played well alongside Cameron Lindley and Mulqueen is clearly giving him a more advanced role on the team.
Forward, Brandon Allen was brought in this summer and has become a regular starter for Mulqueen. He scored a brace against his former team, NYRB II and created the own-goal last week, that pulled Memphis ahead.
With Elliot Collier’s injury, Allen is undoubtedly the best striker on the roster.
Expect to see Memphis press early on in the match and take the match to an inform Riverhounds team.
Pittsburgh will essentially ‘park the bus’ if they score early on, but if the opposition scores first and early, the Riverhounds tend to crumble.