TAMPA, Fl. — The Memphis 901 FC were embarrassed 0-5 by the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and their playoff hopes become that much more bleak.
Memphis traveled to Florida in hopes of taking advantage of an out of form Tampa Bay team. Tampa peppered the Memphis back line with 21 shots, while the 901 FC’s attack produced one shot across 90 minutes.
Tampa, the third-place team in the Eastern Conference, was on their worst run of the season with three losses in their last five matches.
The Rowdies took all of their recent frustration out on Memphis. Tampa Bay looked to score early and pressure the Memphis back line.
901 FC goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell was called to action with two saves inside eight minutes. Tampa continued to expose the Memphis back line and broke through in the 11th minute.
Leo Fernandes played a cross from the left, and Memphis midfielder Pierre Da Silva elevated to head the pass out of the danger area.
Da Silva’s header was mistimed, which allowed veteran attacking midfielder Kwadwo Poku to punish Memphis.
The Ghanaian clinically connected with the volley and unleashed a bullet into the bottom-left corner.
Memphis slowed the match down for the next 20 minutes thanks to pockets of possession.
The 901 FC attack, unable to create any goal-scoring chance for the entire first half, was punished again in added time. The Rowdies broke out on a fast-break after a misplaced pass.
Malik Johnson completed two dribbles, centered a pass into the box, and Andrew Tinari finished into the bottom left corner from eight yards.
The goal marked the 20th time Memphis conceded a goal inside the final 15 minutes of a half.
Tim Mulqueen sent his team out for the second half with a new game plan in order to counter the pace of the Rowdies. The Memphis defenders attempted to force all play inside, and the tactics worked until Poku waived his magic wand once more.
The attacking midfielder broke into space 20 yards out, received a weighted pass from Johnson and curled a first-timed shot into the top-left corner.
After Poku’s brace in the 62nd minute, Memphis lost all confidence.
Tampa was allowed to utilize the wide areas. Johnson continued to dominate the right wing, and the Memphis offense remained nonexistent.
Left-side midfielder Fernandes increased the lead to 4-0 in the 81st minute. The Brazilian created a one-on-one scenario with Abdi Mohamed, completed two step-overs and finished inside the box.
The match was all but over until Johnson made it 5-0 in the 87th minute. He easily weaved his way into the box and beat Caldwell with a powered shot.
Johnson received man of the match honors due to his two assists and one goal.
The five-goal thrashing marked the 901 FC’s worst defeat of the season. The team sits 17th out of 18 teams in the Eastern Conference with 19 points.
Memphis has a chance for redemption in their next match at 15th place Atlanta United II. Kickoff is set for Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m.
— By WREG’s Caleb Hilliard