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Pickering’s progress making him one to watch in Memphis’ lineup | Young Player Spotlight

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/22/23, 1:40PM EDT


Second consecutive start saw 18-year-old notch a goal, assist in victory against FC Tulsa on Friday

Memphis 901 FC's Nighte Pickering delivered his first outing with a goal and assist on Friday night, continuing his emergence as an attacking threat for the Eastern Conference contender. | Photo courtesy Hartford Athletic

When a team is on a positive run of form, it’s easy to stick with the lineup that’s bringing success.

So, it might say something about how Memphis 901 FC’s Nighte Pickering had been looking in training – and the club’s busy recent schedule – that persuaded Memphis Head Coach Stephen Glass that it was time for the 18-year-old to get his chance in the lineup.

And after the way Pickering has played in his first two starts of the season, it might be difficult to bring him back to the bench, at least in the near future.

Having notched his first assist of the season in 901 FC’s victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on May 13, the 18-year-old old United States youth international produced his first game with a goal and assist on Friday night as Memphis took a 2-1 victory at FC Tulsa to stretch its club record undefeated run to seven games.

“He deserved to play again this week,” said Glass. “We managed to get him longer on the pitch and I think he looked better for it. We’re always delighted when he scores. You just feel like he’s going to score every time he’s on the pitch.”

Pickering made a splash in his debut for Memphis last year after joining the professional ranks with the club out of the FC Dallas Academy with a bicycle kick finish for his first professional goal. In the past two weeks, though, he’s shown the well-rounded game that earned him opportunities in the U.S. youth national team system.

Having turned 18 in January, he’ll be age-eligible for the next cycle for the United States U-20 Men’s National Team. Pickering’s progress in Memphis could see him become a central part of that group, and a prospect worth watching for clubs on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Here are the other young players who stood out in the past week of action…

Alex Waggoner, New Mexico United – The 18-year-old forward didn’t officially land on the scoresheet, but he played a key role in New Mexico’s opening two goals of a 3-1 win against Loudoun United FC last Wednesday.

Fidel Barajas, Charleston Battery – The Mexico U-17 international picked up his league-leading fourth assist of the season in a positive overall display to help the Battery extend their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Rocco Rios Novo, Phoenix Rising FC – The 20-year-old Argentine finally claimed his first shutout of the season with four saves in a 1-0 victory against Orange County SC on Saturday night.

Daniel Rios, Las Vegas Lights FC – The 20-year-old El Salvadoran couldn’t turn the tide for his side in the final 20 minutes, but notched his first assist in the professional ranks and completed 10 of 11 passes in a bright display for Lights FC.

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