Memphis 901 FC's Aaron Molloy moved into the USL Championship lead with 10 assists this season as 901 FC set another club landmark on Wednesday night against New Mexico United. | Photo courtesy Josh Lane / New Mexico United
Another game, another landmark for Memphis 901 FC.
After last Saturday night’s victory against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC set a club record for wins in a regular season, the club set a new mark for the most points in a regular season on Wednesday night, as a second consecutive 2-0 victory – this time against New Mexico United at Isotopes Park – sent 901 FC to 51 points this campaign, one more than a year ago and one back of Louisville City FC for first place in the Eastern Conference.
That’s still with 10 games to go before 901 FC’s now almost-certain second consecutive trip to the USL Championship Playoffs, a sign of the rising bar the club continues to clear.
“As these guys have done countless times this season, they picked themselves up,” said Memphis Head Coach Ben Pirmann. “They rotated six new players into the lineup and have a bigger squad. We just worked on what we could control, and I thought we did that well.
“These guys just continue to do it and I'm just so proud of them.”
In the middle of it all – as he has been so often this season – was Aaron Molloy. The offseason acquisition from USL League One club Forward Madison FC put in a stellar display alongside fellow central midfielder Leston Paul, with the Trinidad and Tobago international winning 8 of 11 duels and Molloy making 11 recoveries to help break up promising New Mexico moves.
Add the center back duo of Zach Carroll and Graham Smith – who each recorded seven clearances, with Smith winning 9 of 12 duels and 4 of 4 aerial duels – and the visitors were able to limit New Mexico’s clear looks at goal in impressive fashion.
At the other end, Molloy continued to do what he does as well as anyone in the Championship right now, setting up both goals. In the first half there was a deft through-ball that picked out the run of Luiz Fernando, allowing the Brazilian to round the goalkeeper and finish into an open net. Then as time wound down, he picked out a beautiful 45-yard pass to set up Phillip Goodrum’s 14th goal of the season, while also sending the Irish midfielder to a league-leading 10 helpers.
“The thing we don't notice about what Molloy and Leston do is how many plays they break up, how difficult they make it for our opponent,” said Pirmann. “It lets our front four do a little bit of business in the attack. I think if we can continue to put some things together in the final third and get Molly, Luiz, [Jeremy] Kelly, Phillip [Goodrum], [Laurent] Kissiedou, those four or five front guys flying, then I think we can be even better.”
For a team that has come a long way under Pirmann’s tenure, that next level means challenging for silverware. Those odds would be boosted by hosting a first home playoff game, an opportunity now within sight, and that adds to the importance of games like Saturday’s Southern Harm derby against Birmingham Legion FC.
After conceding a late winner at Protective Stadium when the teams met earlier this season, there’s the potential for revenge for Memphis. That, and the chance to continue to raise its own bar even higher, might be all the motivation 901 FC needs.
“They beat us last match, so we want to come out with spirit,” said Pirmann. “We’ll be at home so hopefully we can get a good crowd for the last home Saturday match. Sometimes in these derby matches you can just throw records and form out. We’re just going to have to get on and play the best game possible.”