Memphis 901 FC took its fourth consecutive victory against FC Tulsa in the series between the clubs on Friday night with a 2-1 result at ONEOK Field that also extended the side’s undefeated streak to seven games (4-0-3) and moved Memphis into fourth place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference going into Saturday night’s action.
Here are three things we took away from the contest.
There are fewer players more enjoyable to watch when they’re at the top of their game in the USL Championship than Aaron Molloy. Not only did he deliver a tremendous display while picking up his first goal of the season, so did his central midfield partner Jeremy Kelly to help extend Memphis’ current undefeated streak to seven games. The pair was sharp in possession, sitting first and second in passes completed (Molloy 63, Kelly 60), and kept 901 FC consistently on the front foot with their crisp coordination of the side.
Molloy was unlucky not to have scored late in the first half as his give-and-go with Phillip Goodrum rattled off the crossbar, but the ability he has in regularly holding the ball just long enough for spaces to open paid off in the second half. The shot from 20 yards that provided the necessary insurance for Memphis to claim victory might have been deflected, but it was a just reward for another great display.
Memphis forward Nighte Pickering drew plenty of praise from Head Coach Stephen Glass after his first start of the season in 901 FC’s victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last Saturday night, which saw his notch a first assist of the season. Glass rewarded that display with a second consecutive start for the 18-year-old, who thanked him by producing a goal and assist and an assured overall display playing alongside Goodrum in a three-man forward line.
The United States U-19 international has shown plenty to like since joining Memphis last summer, and this might have been his best display yet. He went close to opening the scoring after just 12 minutes with a shot that flashed just wide of the left post and looked in tune with his teammates in the attacking third. A sharp reaction and finish to put home his second goal of the season broke the deadlock early in the second half to highlight a fine display and said there’s plenty more to come.
If you went solely by the shot chart of this contest, you’d probably be surprised that FC Tulsa only found the net once as Dario Suarez at least made Memphis sweat out its victory with his 82nd-minute goal. The problem for the hosts, however, saw them play a positive overall game that found ways to come unstuck in the final third as chances went begging.
There were good saves as well by 901 FC goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who produced a great stop to deny Moses Dyer at the top of the six-yard area midway through the first half, and the hosts looked bright early in the second half before Pickering opened the scoring for Memphis. There were other moments of disjointed finishing, too, however, a reflection of the side’s ongoing run that hasn’t seen Tulsa score more than once in a game since April 1. With a defense that’s only recorded one shutout this season, one goal isn’t usually going to be enough to earn the wins Tulsa needs to make a move. So it proved on Friday night.