MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Cal Jennings gave Memphis 901 FC a big sendoff into the offseason as his first professional hat trick led the hosts to a 3-1 victory against Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday night at AutoZone Park. The result left Legion FC in second place in Group G after the Charlotte Independence claimed victory against North Carolina FC earlier in the night, a result that clinched both Charlotte and Birmingham’s place in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.
Closing out their second season, Memphis opened brightly as Leston Paul fired a shot just wide of the right post in the fourth minute before Jennings had a shot from the left side of the penalty area saved by Birmingham goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg six minutes later. Legion FC’s first big look on goal came 10 minutes before halftime, meanwhile, as Neco Brett found JJ Williams in space in the left side of the penalty area only for Williams’ effort to fly just wide of the right post.
Memphis took the lead just a minute later as Jose Baxter found Rece Buckmaster on the right side in space. Buckmaster delivered a low cross to the top of the six-yard area where Jennings was on hand to slide in for a first-time finish. The visitors didn’t take long to respond, however, as when Brett was crowded out in the penalty area he was able to find Bruno Lapa, whose initial effort came back off the left post only for the rebound to come straight back to the Brazilian for a second shot into the right corner.
The sides remained even at the break, but Memphis almost regained the lead six minutes into the second half as Marc Burch found Keanu Marsh-Brown breaking forward, but as the English winger’s lifted finish found the net he turned to find the offside flag raised. In the 54th minute, however, Marsh-Brown provided the assist as Jennings’ notched his second, heading a crossfield pass forward for Jennings to run onto and finish low past Spangenberg.
Both sides had chances in the final 25 minutes as Brett and Alex Crognale both tried to find an equalizer for Legion FC. With five minutes to go, however, Jennings wrapped up his hat trick as Baxter provided a clever flicked pass into his path, and after outmuscling his defender he fired low into the left corner to wrap up all three points for the hosts.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Cal Jennings, Memphis 901 FC – Jennings finished with a hat trick on four shots on goal and also completed 2 of 3 dribbles and 12 of 17 passes in a big closing game for his first professional season.