MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Skylar Thomas scored the only goal, and defender Mark Segbers made a key late save after taking over as an emergency goalkeeper following an injury late in the game as Memphis 901 FC took a 1-0 win against Atlanta United 2 in its home opener at AutoZone Park on Wednesday night.
The sides exchanged chances in the early going as both Atlanta’s Connor Stanley and Caleb Wiley went close for the hosts, while 901 FC’s Kadeem Dacres was unable to capitalize on a breakaway chance as he squeezed a finish wide of the right post under pressure from a defender. Memphis went close again in the 19th minute as Dacres created space to deliver on the right and found Laurent Kissiedou for a first-time shot that went just wide of the right post.
The hosts forced the first notable save of the game 11 minutes before halftime as a cross by Mark Segbers on an angle into the left side of the penalty area found Michael Salazar, but the Belize international couldn’t get enough purchase on his header to beat Atlanta goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo. Two minutes later, though, the visitors were reduced to 10 men as Ajani Fortune was shown his second yellow card of the game and sent off.
Memphis looked to take advantage in the second half, and in the 58th minute Dre Fortune – elder brother of Ajani – sent Kissiedou into the left side of the penalty area for a shot that fizzed toward the right corner of the net and was denied by Rios Novo. Francis Atuahene and Dominic Oduro also had efforts from distance that Rios Novo had to deal with as the game entered its final quarter to keep the game scoreless.
The breakthrough came with 15 minutes to go, however, as Thomas proved the difference. A corner kick from the right by Kissiedou found the center back in the middle of the penalty area for a downward header that picked out the right corner of the net, sending the home support behind the goal into celebration.
That could have been it for drama for the hosts, who almost added a second goal late through Kyle Murphy off a corner kick that was saved by Rios Novo. But having used all three allocated substitution periods in the second half, Memphis had to call on Segbers late to stand in as goalkeeper after John Berner suffered an injury in the 90th minute.
The full back came up clutch in the seventh minute of stoppage time as Atlanta pushed for an equalizer, now 10-on-10, when Josh Bauer picked up a missed clearance in the penalty and quickly centered for Stanley, but Segbers threw his legs and the shot and did enough to keep it out, allowing his defense to clear. One more chance came to Atlanta’s Robbie Mertz with a header that Segbers held calmly, and that saw out a memorable home opener victory, the first in 901 FC’s history.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Mark Segbers, Memphis 901 FC – Segbers had already recorded four key passes and completed 35 of 46 passes overall before being asked to take up the gloves, and then made a crucial late save to preserve Memphis’ victory
MEM – Skylar Thomas (Laurent Kissiedou) 75’