By: Caleb Hilliard
The Memphis 901 FC return home after a grueling three-match away trip.
They lost two, won one on the road trip and need a win over the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday.
Swope Park have not won a match since their 4-3 home win over the Hartford Athletic.
The Rangers travel to Memphis having lost in their last six-matches.
Their 15 points is the lowest total in the USL.
They are yet to pick up a win on the road with 10 losses and two draws.
In their last matchup, Memphis failed to secure three points in a 2-2 draw at the Rangers.
Memphis benefitted from a late Adam Najem brace in last week’s 2-1 win at Atlanta United II.
What to watch for: Swope Park Rangers
The Rangers losing streak began with a 0-4 blowout loss at the hands of the Ottawa Fury.
They improved the following week and held Nashville SC but eventually fell 0-2, at home.
Swope Park traveled to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and nearly pulled off an upset, eventually falling 2-3.
In their previous two matches, the Rangers narrowly lost 1-2 at ATL United II and were destroyed 1-5 at home by conference leaders, New York Red Bulls II.
Despite their poor record, they have several players with top-level talent.
Midfielder, Gideon Zelalem grew up playing for Germany’s U-15-17 and eventually switched to the United States . He currently plays for the US U-23.
Zelalem joined Arsenal’s academy in 2013 and eventually made it onto the first team reserves. He was rostered on the Premier League side from 2014-19 but never once saw first team playing time at Arsenal. He went on loan to several different European clubs during that time, eventually returning to the United States.
He joined MLS-side Sporting Kansas City in 2019 and made nine appearances before being loaned out to their USL affiliate.
Zelalem is one of the most talented young American players and is arguably the best player on Swope Park’s roster.
The team’s leading scorer, Felipe Hernandez was recently signed a contract with Sporting KC and is not available for the upcoming match.
Ethan Vanacore-Decker is Swope Park’s starting striker. He has the third most goals on the team (3) and plays as the lone striker in Head Coach Paulo Nagamura’s 4-1-4-1 formation.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
The 901 FC showed recent improvement in the 2-1 win a week and a half ago.
Their passing in the opponent’s was crisper and the overall decision making improved after four straight abysmal performances.
Leading scorer, Elliot Collier made his return and could start in Saturday’s match.
Fellow striker, Brandon Allen continues to struggle to score but he is finding other ways to help his teammates.
Allen is coming deeper and playing more as a center-forward rather than an out-and-out striker.
Wingers, Marcus Epps and Lagos Kunga will likely be impact players against the Rangers.
Swope Park struggle to contain wide attacking midfielders and have conceded many goals from players cutting inside and playing short passes.
Epps will likely start while Kunga could come off the bench and provide a second half spark.