USL Championship Preview
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (0-0-1, 1 point) vs Memphis 901 FC (0-1-0, 0 points)
Date: Saturday, March 18
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Memphis, TN
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Match hashtags: #MEMvPIT and #HOUNDTAHN
It’s a Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC match day! The Hounds are on the road for the second straight week, looking for their first win of the season after a 1-1 draw at Birmingham last Saturday. They’re in the Central Time Zone again, this time in the City of Blues to take on a team that finished ahead of them in the standings in 2022, Memphis 901 FC.
“There were some positives,” Hounds HC Lilley said after the season opener. “We broke their midfield line a lot and did a good job keeping the ball, but we were not getting behind their back line. I’d like to see us take a little more risk and push play a little more. … Overall, we managed the game well but didn’t quite do enough to win it.”
Look for updates and commentary during the match from PSN’s John Krysinsky on Twitter, plus we’ll have our live gameday blog up shortly before the 5 p.m. kickoff with the starting lineups.
PSN’s Riverhounds SC – Memphis 901 FC Preview
A year ago, after the Hounds soundly defeated Memphis, 3-0, at Auto Zone Park in the opening match of the season. Things changed in the second half of the season when the resurgent boys from 901 FC returned the favor, stunning the Hounds, 2-0, in August.
Memphis finished the 2022 season in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, as they opened up the playoffs by defeating Detroit City FC, 3-1, before bowing out to Tampa Bay, 1-0, in the Conference semifinal round.
Following that playoff disappointment, and now entering its fifth season in the USL Championship, Memphis lost a key figure very instrumental in its turnaround, Head Coach Ben Perimann, who was named the USLC’s Coach of the Year. Perrimann moved on to become the Head Coach of Pittsburgh’s Old Guard Shield rival Charleston Battery.
Under Perimann’s direction, it was the best season in club history, earning 68 points and 21 victories along with its first postseason victory. The club set new records for wins, points and goals scored in the banner year.
In November, the club quickly announced the hiring of Steven Glass, former Atlanta United and Aberdeen FC manager to become the new Head Coach.
Glass previously coached four players on the Memphis’ roster including Phillip Goodrum and Laurent Kissiedou.
Among the key returning starters is Irish midfielder Aaron Malloy, who believes that Memphis can be as good as they were a year ago.
“I think a lot of the returners still have that fire in their belly from last year and I think we want to keep on and go a step forward, get to a final or win the whole thing,” Molloy said. “That’s our mindset. This year, our sights are on a trophy and I think we can do that.”
The club has signed a few new goal-creating weapons in Bruno Lapa and Sebastián Velásquez while retaining the core of one of the most dangerous midfields in the USLC.
“The new guys have come in and they’ve actually raised the level,” Molloy said. “There’s spots up for grabs and everyone wants to play in the game on March 11 so the competitive nature has risen. That brings out the best in people. These players coming in are all fantastic people, fantastic players and we’re all excited to get going in the season.”
But all hasn’t gone very well for 901 FC thus far in Glass’ short regime.
For starters, Goodrum, a former Atlanta United highly touted prospect who had a breakout season in USLC in 2022, made it public that he wasn’t happy with still being in Memphis.
Actually, he said he’s ‘devastated’ to still be on this team.
Just saw this scorching quote from Memphis 901 FC's leading scorer last year, Phillip Goodrum:
“I had opportunities to go into MLS & go into Europe this offseason, & the club held me back from that. So I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t devastated to be back here.”
— Soccer Rabbi (@soccer_rabbi) March 7, 2023
To make matters worse, Memphis took one in the chin again in the season opener last week, when they were soundly outplayed by Loudoun United FC, 3-1, at AutoZone Park. Leading the charge for Loudoun included former Riverhounds SC forward, Tommy Willamson, who scored in the first minute of the match.
The only Memphis goal came when Kissiedou found himself on the end of a quick counter effort with just the keeper to beat for the first goal of the season, showing that 901 FC can be very dangerous in transition.
Quick Takeaway ➡️ 3v2 ➡️ Easy Money for @brunoolapaa and @LaurentKissied2
We could get used to this!!#DefendMemphis pic.twitter.com/bNOdpAYGnG
— Memphis 901 FC (@Memphis901FC) March 13, 2023
With that in mind, the Hounds will have to do much of what they did last week in Birmingham, in controlling possession and dictating terms, and keeping its defensive shape to deny any quick striking opportunities for Memphis.
Memphis, which fell behind 3-0 early had to absorb more salt to their wounds, they will be without Kissiedou after a red card in the second half of the opener.
The scariest of teams to play is a team that is very talented and looking for something to prove.
“I think the focus has to be starting properly. If you start like (the season opener) against Pittsburgh, the same result happens,” Glass said this week.
“It’s important that we start games properly and if we play the game like we did in the second half (against Loudoun), we won’t have a problem this season. But if we start we did, we will.”
The Hounds will have to be fully aware that Memphis will be a desperate side on Saturday and will have to be at the top of their game if they want to come away with a full three points.
“They’ll be a different opponent, than (Birmingham), but they are very talented,” Ordonez added.
“We’ll have a different game plan, but we’ll be ready.”
How Memphis Lined Up Last Week
- Kissiedou will have to sit out due to last week’s Red Card
- Former Hounds defender Jelani Peters will featured along the back line
- With Kissielou out, look for the 18-year old, Nighte Pickering or 23 year-old Dylan Borczak, a natural left winger to step in place on that side.
- Key Match-Up: The Midfield battle! The Hounds midfield controlled possession against Birmingham on the bigger field. It will be interesting to see how they look to neutralize Aaron Malloy who sets the table so effectively for Memphis.
Anticipated Hounds Lineup
There are no players on the Hounds injury report.
Starting lineups may be a bit more fluid early in the season as Bob Lilley looks to continue to try different things.
Tony Lopez is a player to watch as a potential starter for the Hounds, as he was the first off the bench in the 54th minute last week. Also, if Pittsburgh decides to go with a three-man back line, they will likely add Joey Farrell to the starting eleven, and pair him up with Arturo Ordonez and Pat Hogan.