BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Memphis 901 FC played 90 minutes of sublime defense, and one misstep led to the Birmingham Legion FC’s match-winning goal.
Memphis controlled the tempo of the match with 60% possession and 132 more passes. Birmingham out-shot Memphis 17-7 but merely registered four shots on frame.
The first 45 minutes of play went without a goal, as both teams played a physical style of soccer. Memphis often developed early chances, but it was Birmingham that created the first goal-scoring chance of the match.
J.J. Williams dribbled by Abdi Mohamed into the box and opted to pass instead of shoot. His pass was dangerous, and Liam Doyle’s quick reflex interception may have saved the 901 FC from conceding an early goal.
Birmingham continued its fast buildup style of play and caught 901 FC’s Dan Metzger out of position.
Metzger powerfully dove into a recovery tackle and caught the trailing leg of midfielder Edward Opoku. The head official issued a yellow card to Metzger, and Joseph Holland entered the match in the 11th minute for the injured Opoku.
Memphis was unable to create any clear-cut chances in the first 10 minutes as the Legion FC demonstrated why they have kept five straight clean sheets.
Marcus Epps eventually broke through in the 13th minute and won a free kick on the near sideline.
Marc Burch fired in the free kick to the back post, and Epps got on the end of the cross with a downward header. Veteran goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel was in an ideal position to keep the match level.
Jeff Caldwell demonstrated his goalkeeping skill minutes later. Substitute Joseph Holland made a run into the box, received a centered pass and fired a low driven shot from 12 yards. Caldwell expertly saved and managed to handle the shot with both gloves.
Birmingham created another goal scoring chance in the 33rd minute, this time through Prosper Kasim. The midfielder spun Mohamed and glided into the box. Kasim attempted to flick the ball past Caldwell into the far corner, but his shot drifted inches wide.
Memphis enjoyed 63% possession, and Birmingham created three more chances as the first half whistle sounded.
The 901 FC came out with a sense of urgency in the second half. They frustrated the Birmingham midfield and managed 75% possession for the first 10 minutes.
Lindley created one of the top chances in the 64th minute. He and Allen combined swiftly in the 18-yard box with one-two passes. Lindley, unmarked, opted to pass instead of shoot, and his pass was cut out at the last second.
Memphis head coach Tim Mulqueen made a tactical change 66 minutes into the match. He brought in the faster Lagos Kunga for Pierre Da Silva, which allowed Memphis to better utilize the wide areas of the pitch.
The match was all but over, and once again, Memphis conceded a very late goal. Daniel Johnson benefited from outstanding team play and slotted his shot past Caldwell from six yards in the 90th minute.
The continued reoccurring theme for Memphis is late-match heartbreak. The 901 FC’s next match is on the road at the Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 24.
— By WREG’s Caleb Hilliard