Akeem Ward Joins 100-Club as Memphis Jockeys for Playoff Positioning
Memphis 901 FC defender Akeem Ward will officially be a part of the 100-club the next time he laces his boots and strides onto the field to patrol the left side of the defensive wing. The Vienna, Virginia, native reached the century mark for USL Championship regular season appearances in Wednesday’s draw at Loudoun.
“It was good to be able to achieve that in front of my family and friends,” Ward said. “It comes full circle. That’s where it all started, so to get out there and get my 100th game was great. Hopefully many more to come.”
The journeyman has used experience gained from stops across the USL like Loudoun, Birmingham, Oakland and Rio Grande Valley to become a staple in the Memphis defense with 21 starts in 22 appearances this season.
Leading the club with 37 interceptions and 37 tackles won this season, Ward’s defense has been on display from the season opening kickoff. But the Memphis offense kicks into gear when the speedster finds space on the perimeter to deliver pinpoint passes into the box.
“My focus is to continue to contribute to the team defensively first, then offensively,” he said. “Being able to do the simple things of winning duels and tackles is key and helping on the offensive side is a bonus. I just continue to do my defensive duties and when I do get an opportunity to go forward in attack, I take those chances when they come.”
Ward also leads the club with 38 crosses and has tallied two assists this season, the second a spectacular dart across the box resulting in a Goal of the Week nomination for fellow fullback Rece Buckmaster.
Ward, Buckmaster and company will work to contain an Indy Eleven club that leads the USL Championship in possession in Saturday’s matchup at Michael A. Carroll Stadium at 6 p.m. CT.
“They have a very dynamic team. They like to keep the ball,” Ward said. “They like to move the ball and have a lot of dynamic attacking pieces and experienced players. But I believe there are some spots we can expose. It’s just limiting movement and not letting them score early.”
Fans can watch the match on ESPN+ or WMC Bounce 5.2.
The Beale Street Boys finish a stretch of three away matches in seven days at Indy Eleven on Saturday night. Memphis has been one of the top clubs on the road in the USL Championship with only two losses in 10 matches away from AutoZone Park this season.
Memphis stands toward the top of the league with their dangerous offensive attack scoring 37 goals in 20 matches. The Beale St. Boys rank in the top-five in goals per match, shots per match and final third entries.
Goals per match:
- San Antonio – 2.00
- San Diego – 1.80
- Memphis – 1.76
Spreading the Wealth
Memphis hasn’t missed a step even with injuries to key players this season. 901 FC has had 13 different players find the back of the net and 11 assist others in scores this year.
Instant Impact for Rodrigo
The Brazilian international has contributed to three scores in his last four games with two goals and one assist and leads Memphis 901 FC with eight goals to go with three assists this season.
Versatile veteran Rodrigo da Costa joined Memphis 901 FC in a midseason acquisition, bringing his knack for scoring and distribution to one of the most dangerous attacking sides in the league.
Scores for the Newcomer
Former top league midfielder Emerson Hyndman has made his impact early in the midfield with three goals in only five starts for the Beale Street Boys.
The Dallas, Texas native brings National Team, Scottish Premiership and MLS experience to a talented Memphis roster after playing a starting role for Head Coach Stephen Glass with Atlanta United.
Chances on Chances on Chances
Memphis now has two of the top creators in the league in Aaron Molloy and Rodrigo da Costa. Molloy leads the league in chances created and leads the club with five assists after a two-assist outing in Pittsburgh. Da Costa is tied for fourth in the league in chances as Memphis stands toward the top in almost every offensive team metric.
Chances Created Leaderboard:
- Aaron Molloy – 56
- Charlie Dennis – 46
- Taylor Davila – 45
- Rodrigo da Costa – 39
- Panos Armenakas – 39
The Kid is Cooking
Nighte Pickering has proven himself to be a dangerous presence for opposition goalkeepers in 2023. The 18-year-old striker has tallied four goals with four assists. Pickering scored the game-winning goal in 901 FC’s U.S. Open Cup victory over Atlanta United, the first win over an MLS club in franchise history.
Pickering scored two goals in seven appearances last season, including an ESPN SportsCenter Top-10 bicycle kick goal on debut, and was called up to the U.S. U-19 Youth National Team in the offseason.