A Budding Rivalry?
Memphis 901 FC isn’t lacking in heated matchups with storied history with the likes of Birmingham Legion FC (13 meetings) and Louisville City FC (11 meetings), and 901 FC vs. Detroit City FC could potentially match that level even with only four meetings.
The two clubs supplanted themselves as a marquee matchup perpetually circled on league fixture schedules last fall when Memphis dropped Detroit to the tune of 3-1 in the first round of the USL Championship Playoffs.
If you ask the Bluff City Mafia and most 901 FC supporters, the term ‘no love lost’ doesn’t begin to describe that feeling that comes over them when the Beale Street Boys and Le Rouge take the field for a bit of footy. But do the guys on the field feel anything extra in the matchup?
“We know Detroit are a good team and well coached by an experienced manager,” Head Coach Stephen Glass said. “I’m not sure they’ll be any extra, but at this stage of the season there’s a team that is very hungry to push their way into the playoff mix and we need to make sure we stay at the top end of the playoff mix. I think every week is going to be tough physical games. It’s nothing unusual.”
As the old saying goes, a rivalry requires both teams to be relatively even as far as results, trading body blows year after year. Detroit will be looking to land their first punch on the Beale Street Boys as they’ve yet to capture a victory over Memphis in the two clubs’ four previous meetings.
“Their atmosphere is pretty hectic and being put under a little bit of pressure brings it out of us,” midfielder Aaron Molloy said. “But there’s no rivalry so to speak. Every team in the league is a rival to us. We just want to go out there and get three points and play well.”
Memphis and Detroit most recently played to a hard-fought draw in a physical match at AutoZone Park on June 17, but this time Le Rouge will be the hosts at Keyworth Stadium in Michigan City.
“I think we just match the energy and try to push above it,” defender Akeem Ward said. “They’re going to have a rowdy crowd on Saturday and it’s going to be a good one. They need a result and so do we.
“It’s just kind of weathering that storm. I know for the first 15 (minutes) they’re going to want to battle and fight. It’s just making sure we make the right decisions and battle as hard or harder than them. From there we can settle in and play the football we want to play.”
901 FC looks to rebound from just their third road loss on the season last time out to climb back into contention for a home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Detroit are winners in three of their last five matches fighting to hold on to the No. 8 seed and final spot in the playoffs.
“I think it’s something in the back of our minds, to get a home playoff game,” Molloy said. “I take it one game at a time and hopefully by the end of the year we have a home playoff game at an absolute minimum. We want more games here at AutoZone Park. It’d be great for the fans and the community.”
Fans can watch the match on ESPN+ and WMC Bounce TV locally. Memphis 901 FC returns to AutoZone Park next week for a two-match week on Wednesday, Sept. 6 against Tampa Bay and Saturday, Sept. 9 against Monterey Bay.
The Beale Street Boys hit the road for the final time after six matches out of their last seven away from home. Memphis has been one of the top clubs on the road in the USL Championship with only three losses in 13 matches away from AutoZone Park this season.
Rodrigo Answers the Call
Rodrigo da Costa leads Memphis 901 FC with nine goals this season, already matching his 2022 total and only three scores away from his career-high with eight matches remaining in the regular season.
“Rodrigo continues to give us what we knew he would when we got him,” Head Coach Stephen Glass. “We’ve not been disappointed since he got here.”
The versatile Brazilian attacker 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.
Spreading the Wealth
Memphis hasn’t missed a step even with injuries to key players this season. 901 FC has had 14 different players find the back of the net and 11 assist others in scores this year.
Leading the charge is midfielder Aaron Molloy, who leads the club with six assists this season, third most in the league. Molloy and Jeremy Kelly led the team with 10 assists each in 2022.
Drew Romig has established himself as a strong starter in goal for this league after strong performances during August with two consecutive clean sheets while only allowing two goals in the five matches.
The goalkeeper earned Team of the Week honors for the first time after his fourth clean sheet of the season.