Memphis 901 FC's Laurent Kissiedou and Luiz Fernando will get to square off with their former club in familiar surroundings as 901 FC takes on Atlanta United FC in the Open Cup on Wednesday. | Photo courtesy Eric Glemser / Memphis 901 FC
If there’s one thing Memphis 901 FC’s coaching staff and players won’t have to worry about on Wednesday night, it’ll be the surroundings.
In fact, for 901 FC Head Coach Stephen Glass and players Phillip Goodrum, Laurent Kissiedou and Luiz Fernando, Fifth Third Bank Stadium on the campus of Kennesaw State University – the venue for the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round contest against Atlanta United FC – could feel like a home away from home.
“I think the fact we’re playing at Kennesaw rather than [Mercedes-Benz Stadium], we’re not going to be standing around like tourists,” said Glass recently. “We’re at Kennesaw, we’ve played there before, some of the lads feel very much at home there. So, I think you go there, you stay in the game, you try and grow in our game and show you can handle playing in that environment, in that occasion. And you never know what can happen.”
“I think we might go and train at the training ground once before and so that’ll feel funny, being on the other side of things,” added Goodrum. “But I think it’s good, you know. Go back into a locker room I’ve been into before in a stadium environment we’ve seen before.”
All four once called Fifth Third Bank Stadium home, when they were part of former USL Championship club Atlanta United 2 in recent seasons. Kissiedou was the first to arrive in Atlanta United 2’s first season in 2018, when he recorded three goals in 25 appearances for the side. Glass was appointed as the second Head Coach in the club’s history prior to the 2019 season, having previously worked in Atlanta’s Academy system, and that year Fernando also saw regular action on loan after signing an MLS contract with the club, scoring two goals and four assists in 32 appearances.
Memphis 901 FC forward Phillip Goodrum was hoping to draw Atlanta United FC in the Open Cup Third Round, a wish that came true as he and his teammates head to Georgia on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Savannah Adlay / Memphis 901 FC
Goodrum arrived the following year after being selected in the MLS SuperDraft by the club, and in a tumultuous season all-around earned opportunities with the First Team in the Concacaf Champions League early in the season.
With Glass also having served as the interim Head Coach for Atlanta United FC after the departure of Frank de Boer in 2020, the connections to the club and those who remain part of the Atlanta organization remain strong for both. It’s why they were both hoping for this draw – Glass instantly received messages from former colleagues when the envelopes were revealed – even while other of Goodrum’s teammates fancied another MLS opponent in the regional pod.
“A lot of the guys wanted to get the Tennessee Derby, to play Nashville away, but I was sitting there, and I think I was one of the few who was just itching to go to Atlanta,” said Goodrum. “Initial reaction, I was through the roof. Like Glassy said, it’s a great opportunity to test ourselves and there’s a big relationship having been involved with the club before. So yeah, I was ecstatic.”
Memphis will arrive in Georgia coming off its best performance of the season on Saturday night, a 3-0 victory against Rio Grande Valley FC that delivered a reminder of the vintage displays that powered the side to a second-place finish in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference last season.
It also marked the first shutout in the club’s colors for goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who will be one of the players that needs to be front and center for Memphis if it’s to fulfill its goal of springing a surprise. The former United States international who joined 901 FC late in March has history with the Open Cup – he won the tournament in 2013 with D.C. United – and having someone of that experience to back 901 FC’s group is notable.
Current Memphis 901 FC Head Coach Stephen Glass guided both Atlanta United 2 and Atlanta United FC from the sidelines during his tenure with the club. | Photo courtesy Christian Inoferio / Rio Grande Valley FC
What’s more, Hamid will be among the players who enter with something to prove to the broader soccer community, with the trio of former Atlanta players likely hoping to deliver a big display against their former club.
“I don't think they ever need extra motivation,” said Glass. “But I do think that the type of players that will take it that way, they will use anything they can to fuel the determination to win a game every week, and they might find a little bit extra next week. I hope they do, but it’s whatever fuels and whatever channels their energy to drive them to be to be something special.
“They don’t need to look too far next week because they’ve all been involved with the First Team there, probably felt like they could have continued, Laurent probably didn’t get as much opportunity as the other two … but it’s also that there’s a hunger when you have left a club to prove people you can still add to the mix in there. I’m pretty sure those boys have got that there in their stomach.”
Back on familiar ground, and with something to prove, 901 FC is hoping it can deliver for its fans, and themselves.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to showcase what I can do against some of the top talent in the country,” said Goodrum. “We’re going to be lining up looking across the field against a World Cup winner [Argentina’s Thiago Almada], against Miles Robinson, one of the top center backs in the country. So, it’s an opportunity for us as players to showcase what we can do as a team and as individuals.
“These are the environments you want to be in, and this is why you’re a professional footballer. If you can’t play in this kind of hectic and exciting environment, you shouldn’t be in the game. So, I’m excited.”