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Four things we took from Memphis 901 FC’s preseason draw with Atlanta United FC

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 02/04/24, 8:20AM EST


Nighte Pickering shows again why he could sparkle this season, while Zach Duncan makes a good first impression

Atlanta United FC and Memphis 901 FC played to a 1-1 preseason draw at the University of Georgia on Saturday afternoon. | Photo courtesy Atlanta United FC

Memphis 901 FC earned a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United FC in its preseason opener on Saturday afternoon at the University of Georgia Soccer Complex in Athens, Ga. as Nighte Pickering scored an early goal for the hosts before Atlanta hit back with a late equalizer.

Here are four things we took away from the contest.


Entering his second full season in Memphis, Nighte Pickering is one of the young players everyone should have an eye on this season in the USL Championship. On Saturday, it took barely two minutes for him to show why.

The 18-year-old U.S. youth international gave 901 FC an early lead with a beautiful curled finish to the top-left corner of the net from the top of the penalty area on the first chance of the game, taking advantage of a good piece of recovery work by Luiz Fernando after Lucas Turci’s cross into the top of the box was up for grabs.

Pickering had other good moments playing as a lone striker in 901 FC's 4-2-3-1 formation, and led Memphis’ pressing moments nicely when the side was out of possession in his 45 minutes of work. After recording four goals and four assists a season ago – as well as a game-winner against Atlanta in Memphis’ victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last season – this was a solid start to the new year.


Pregame, you might have expected the spotlight in Memphis’ midfield to fall on Emerson Hyndman, who was returning to face his former club for the first time since signing with 901 FC last season. Instead, that was the role of newcomer Zach Duncan, who showed equal measures of feistiness and quality playing alongside Hyndman in the two-man central midfield pairing in the first half.

The former Australian U-23 international was quick to snap into challenges in midfield – he was the recipient of the first of a handful of yellow cards in a preseason game that had a little more edge than you might expect – but also had some good touches on the ball playing out of pressure and through midfield. While it took Memphis a little time to settle into a rhythm overall, the final 15 minutes of the first half showed positive signs that the departures the side suffered this offseason have been adequately addressed.


The biggest positive Memphis Head Coach Stephen Glass will likely take from this contest was the competitiveness his side showed and – especially in the first half – the defensive foundation that didn’t give Atlanta’s first group many clear looks at goal. That didn’t quite carry through to Memphis’ second unit, which needed a great goal line clearance by AB Cissoko and save by back-up goalkeeper Aaron Seeger to keep the side ahead before Jamal Thiaré’s 90th-minute equalizer for Atlanta.

The next step for Memphis, though, will be to sharpen up in possession. While you could see the difference in where both clubs are at in their respective preseasons, with Atlanta having two weeks more preparation and fitness under its belt, there felt like too many instances where Memphis was giving possession away too cheaply. That was particularly true in the second half, where the side managed only one shot as passes upfield went well astray. There should be better to come here, but it was the flaw that led to much of Atlanta’s pressure and eventual equalizer.


Everyone in Memphis’ locker room should be buying Lucas Turci dinner for the next week after the Brazilian battled it out for 80 minutes before finally succumbing to cramp after playing multiple positions. Starting at center back, Turci’s extended shift was required after both Noe Meza and Dylan Borczak went down in the first half with what appeared to be muscular tweaks.

An ice bath and a large jug of hydration fluid were hopefully waiting for Turci outside the locker room.

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