MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis 901 FC saw their four-match win streak snapped with a 0-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh’s stout defense managed to stifle Memphis to earn a league-high sixth-straight shutout. Pittsburgh is the type of team that does not mind when their opponent maintains possession.
The Riverhounds allowed Memphis to do as they pleased in the opposite half. The back four stayed compact and played without flaw.
Pittsburgh head coach Bob Lilley made sure every player on the pitch knew their exact assignment for 90 minutes.
901 FC head coach Tim Mulqueen attempted to outwit Lilley with a half-field press for the first 45 minutes. The tactics were ineffective, and the Memphis offense lacked creativity.
Memphis team captain Marc Burch produced the lone shot on goal in the first half through a set piece. Pittsburgh also produced a mere one shot on goal, but their shot found the back of the net.
In soccer, sometimes it only takes one chance to earn three points. In the 15th minute, the Riverhounds created one of the better attacks of the match to win a corner.
Midfielder Robbie Mertz struck a lofted corner and the 6-foot-6 Joseph Greenspan tucked in his header at the back post.
Memphis produced no response after falling behind.
The normally dangerous Marcus Epps was made ineffective in the final third due to the play of fullback Ryan James.
Any time a Memphis player squeezed into areas around the box, three Pittsburgh defenders swarmed the ball.
The tedious first 45 minutes of play ended at 0-1 as Mulqueen contemplated on how to unlock Lilley’s defensive minded tactics.
The 901 FC came out of the half with a full-field press in order to force the Riverhounds out of their comfort zone. Mulqueen wasted little time with the substitutes and swapped the team’s second leading goal-scorer, Elliot Collier, for Duane Muckette.
Collier’s large frame allowed Burch and the rest of the defense to start counter attacks by beaming balls forward to the New Zealander.
Epps and Pierre Da Silva focused on funneling play to Collier.
Lilley countered their play and ordered his team to keep 10 players behind the ball.
Memphis could not cope with the organized Pittsburgh defense. Their passing was not crisp, and nearly every long ball drifted out of reach and out of play.
Mulqueen’s solution to clean up the attack was to bring in 901 FC’s best facilitator, Adam Najem, and the fastest player, Lagos Kunga.
Najem made a great run into the box and went to the turf following a challenge from Greenspan. After the replay, it was apparent the head official missed the foul, as Greenspan missed the ball and made contact with Najem.
Minutes later, Memphis continued to build momentum.
Josh Morton expertly found Kunga on the right wing in space. Kunga weaved into the box but his subsequent shot was easily blocked.
The match closed at 0-1. The loss means Memphis’ playoff dreams are now even more unattainable.
The Memphis 901 FC will play again Sept. 28 at home against the Bethlehem Steel FC.
— BY WREG’s Caleb Hilliard