MEMPHIS, Tenn. – In front of a sold-out crowd of 8,062 fans at AutoZone Park, Memphis 901 FC brought the passion for pro soccer back to the City of Memphis on Saturday night.
Despite a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the atmosphere was electric from the moment gates opened Saturday evening in downtown Memphis.
From the first whistle, the sounds of drums and chants showered 901 FC players as they took the pitch for the very first time.
Tampa broke through first in the fourth minute after an early penalty call. Midfielder Sebastián Guenzatti converted from the spot to put the visitors up 1-0.
An aggressive Memphis attack kept creating chance after chance with midfielder Wes Charpie nearly converting a bicycle kick to equalize deep inside the box.
Near misses by forward Rashawn Dally and Elliot Collier kept Tampa on its toes for much of the first half as the visitors took a 1-0 lead into the locker rooms.
Memphis came back into the second half and resumed physical play on both sides of the pitch. Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell showed off his athleticism with save after save, but it wasn’t enough as Memphis fell in the end.
Despite the final score, 901 FC head coach Tim Mulqueen saw progress in his young squad.
“I think it’s unfortunate, the goal we concede three minutes in, but I’m very pleased with the effort,” Mulqueen said. “If we compete and play like this, most nights we are going to walk out with three points.”
Team captain Marc Burch was struck by the atmosphere in the first match.
“It was great,” Burch said. “Really, you just look around and everybody was involved before the game.
“Just hearing people cheer and at the end still standing and cheering us on. We’re looking forward to coming back and getting a win and some goals scored for them next week.”
Burch and Memphis will be back at AutoZone Park on Saturday, March 16 when the club welcomes Loudoun United FC to town. Kickoff for that match is slated for 7:00 p.m.