By: Caleb Hilliard
In the USL Championship, no match is easy, and every point is vital.
Snatching a point or three away from North Carolina FC, a side with Alex Tambakis between the pipes, will not be easy, but this is why we love football.
The uncertainty, the angst and the upsets are all why we pour our hearts into this sport week in and week out.
A single goal could separate the 5th ranked team and the 15th ranked team in the Eastern Conference. A single goal could increase Memphis’ playoffs hopes.
Last time out against NCFC, Memphis failed to score a second goal, despite the man advantage for the final 35 minutes. The match ended 1-1.
What to watch for: North Carolina FC
North Carolina have 37 points with a record of 10-5-7. They continued to move up the standings, from the opening match, but three of their five losses occurred in their last five matches.
NCFC in surprising fashion, lost 0-1 at the Birmingham Legion. They triumphed over Loudoun United, four days later, 3-0.
NCFC then traveled to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and despite six saves from Tambakis, lost 0-1.
They earned a much needed 4-2 victory over a struggling Atlanta United II team, the following week.
Last week, in possibly their most important match of the season thus far, NCFC fell 1-2 at home to the Indy Eleven. Indy are fourth in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of NCFC.
Head coach, Dave Sarachan often switches up formations depending on the opponent. The formations he implements the most are the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-4-2.
Offensively, the NCFC attack features five players with four-plus goals on the season, including midfielder Steven Miller, who has a team-high seven tallies in 2019. Miller also leads NCFC in assists (five) and is one of just two players in the Eastern Conference with at least seven goals and five assists.
Miller is vital to the team’s game-plan, but goalkeeper Tambakis is arguably the most important player on the roster.
He leads the Eastern Conference with 61 saves. Tambakis was voted USL Championship Fans’ Choice Midseason Goalkeeper of the Year.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
The 901 FC forced a 0-0 draw at Saint Louis FC, despite playing with 10 men for most of the match after Cameron Lindley’s 27th minute red card.
The team looked much improved after a 0-4 thumping by Pittsburgh, on August 3.
Lindley has become a mainstay in Tim Mulqueen’s starting XI and will not be available due the one-match suspension.
Midfielder, Pierre da Silva played in the last match and will likely start again on Saturday.
Forward, Elliot Collier is still injured and will most likely not be available for the next few matches.
Defender, Liam Doyle put in a solid 90 minutes in his first match last week for the 901 FC. He will likely remain in the starting XI.
The reoccurring question mark is Lagos Kunga. Will he start and if he is subbed on, where will he play? I believe that Kunga will start on Saturday and make an impact.
If Memphis win and Loudoun United lose or draw, the 901 FC will jump to 14th. If Memphis win and Bethlehem Steele FC lose, the 901 FC could climb into the 15th spot.