KENNESAW, Ga. — Adam Najem’s brace leads Memphis 901 FC to a 2-1 away victory over Atlanta United II. The win marks the 901 FC’s first victory since a 2-0 home win over the Ottawa Fury on July 27.
Memphis had 35% possession and 311 less passes than their opponents.
Despite the possession stats, Memphis outshot Atlanta 15-10 and produced more shots on target.
The 901 FC came into Wednesday’s match 17th in the Eastern Conference standings and winless in their last five matches. The team scored one goal across those five matches.
Both Atlanta and Memphis have struggled this season and their desperation for a win was evident on the pitch.
Atlanta maintained 70% possession in the first 15 minutes. Despite the early spells of possession, they were unable to generate a shot on target.
The 901 FC’s Lagos Kunga orchestrated the first two goal scoring opportunities inside 15 minutes.
He turned the ball onto his stronger left foot on both occasions and saw his shot blocked by the same defender.
The opposition’s defense swiftly caught onto the 901 FC’s offensive tactics and began to dominate possession once again.
They eventually broke the deadlock in the 36th minute.
Memphis midfielder, Dan Metzger was forced to track back and defend Luiz Fernando inside his own box. He jockeyed Fernando and the Brazilian tripped on his own foot.
Head official, Adam Kilpatrick was caught away from the play and controversially signaled for an Atlanta penalty kick.
Since video review is not available in the USL Championship, the call stood.
Goalkeeper, Jeff Caldwell guessed correctly but Atlanta’s Jack Metcalf was still able to convert the penalty kick.
Down 0-1, Memphis refused to give in and see out the final 10 minutes of the half. They pressured Atlanta and nearly tied the match in the 45th minute.
At the half Memphis had eight shots, two on target. Atlanta had six shots and their only shot on target was the penalty kick.
Memphis continued their momentum into the second half and went with a direct style of play.
They pressured high for the entirety of the second half and the tactics proved beneficial.
Forward, Marcus Epps led the press on multiple occasions. He forced goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira into two saves in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
Atlanta looked solid defensively in the second half but could not string together a fluid attack.
They continued to attempt build-up play from their defenders and were unsuccessful towards the end of the match.
Najem led the break, following an Atlanta turnover in the 79th minute, and sent a through-ball to Josh Morton on the right wing.
Najem continued his run into the box, Morton sent in a ground cross and Najem calmly tucked the ball into the net.
A sense of relief could be seen on the players faces, as their goal-drought came to a satisfying close.
With 10 minutes remaining, the 901 FC continued to pursue the come from behind win.
Memphis once again won possession following the high press and Epps led the break.
The forward created enough space on the far-left end-line to drive in a centered-cross.
Substitute, Elliot Collier could have taken a touch but opted to perform a ‘dummy’ which confused the defenders.
Metzger saw the opportunity and unleashed a driven shot on target. Castanheira parried the shot back into the center of the box.
Najem scored on the rebound to complete his brace and pull Memphis ahead.
Memphis defended for the remaining seven minutes and pulled off their fifth win of the season.
Memphis leapfrogged Atlanta into 14th in the current Eastern Conference Standings.
Memphis 901 FC are back in action at the Charleston Battery, Monday, September 2nd. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. C.T.
Written by: Caleb Hilliard