LEESBURG, Va. — The Memphis 901 FC kept their playoff hopes alive and extend their winning streak to three with a 2-1 win at Loudoun United FC.
The win marked the team’s third-successive come-from-behind victory. The winning streak marks the 901 FC’s best run in club history.
Both teams entered Friday’s match with a less than 3% chance of making the USL Championship Playoffs.
Loudoun sat at 12th with 27 points, and Memphis was three spots behind with 25 points.
The Virginia side went into the match with all key players in the starting eleven, while the 901 FC were without team captain center-back Marc Burch.
Loudoun took advantage of the depleted Memphis back line from kickoff.
Nelson Martinez, five minutes in, attempted a routine lofted through pass from midfield. The pass drew Memphis goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell off his line.
Caldwell attempted to clear the pass with a run 22 yards from goal. Kyle Murphy punished the keeper with a chipped shot to open the scoring.
Loudoun used its momentum from the early goal and applied additional pressure on the 901 FC back four.
Memphis struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the first 25 minutes of play. Loudoun produced 10 shots before Memphis registered a single shot.
Cameron Lindley produced the 901 FC’s initial goal-scoring chance in the 26th minute.
He curled in a cross to the near post, and Elliot Collier nearly produced a goal with a flicked headed effort.
Lindley produced two shots of his own before the half. He forced Loudoun goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. into a diving save from a set piece. He also tested the keeper with a low-driven shot from 20 yards in the 44th minute.
Loudoun outplayed Memphis in the first half but failed to further punish the opposition on multiple occasions.
901 FC head coach Tim Mulqueen made tactical modifications at the half. He instructed his team to play through the center of the pitch and apply pressure on Loudoun’s holding midfielders.
The Loudoun central midfielders struggled to contain Lindley and Dan Metzger after the adjustments. The home side opted to play with more aggression and physicality, which can often lead to cards.
Head official Jonathan Bilinski issued four fouls to Loudoun in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, and Loudoun’s physicality ultimately proved detrimental.
Martinez, who already received a yellow card, slid into Lindley with his studs up in the 58th minute. Bilinski deemed Martinez’s tackle reckless enough to send the midfielder off via a second yellow card.
Memphis quickly punished the now 10-man Loudoun.
Ewan Grandison weaved his way down the right sideline and slotted a pass into the box to Collier. The forward used his 6-foot-4 frame to box out his marker and played a dangerous ball across the face of goal.
Defender Harri Hawkins mishit the cross into his own net to level the score in the 63rd minute.
Memphis dominated possession for the next 20 minutes with the match-winning goal in sight.
Substitute Lagos Kunga replaced the slower Collier in the 68th minute. The switch forced the Loudoun defenders to play with added caution.
Kunga struggled with his dribbles at first, but nine minutes before the final whistle, he delivered. The winger beat his marker at the near post with a step-over, sent in a centered ground cross, and Brandon Allen scored from a yard out.
Mulqueen instructed his team to play with six defenders in the final minutes as his team pulled off their third win in a row.
The nine points accumulated in three matches moved Memphis up to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings. They are now eight points from the Birmingham Legion FC for the 10th and final playoff spot.
The 901 FC return home for their next match on Sept. 21 against Saint Louis FC.
— By WREG’s Caleb Hilliard