Memphis 901 FC defeated El Paso Locomotive FC 4-0 Saturday night in their last regular season home game of the year.
Both teams entered the contest in need of a win to bolster their respective USL Championship playoff chances. For 901 FC, a win would push them one step closer to claiming the 4 seed in the eastern conference, which would secure a home playoff game. For El Paso, a win would have clinched a playoff berth, as they entered the conference as the 7 seed in the west.
“This was a game we needed to win to keep home field for the first round of the playoffs,” said Memphis 901 FC equipment manager Sam McAdams.
The first 30 minutes of the match were largely uneventful, with very few good opportunities for either side.
Memphis broke through in the 31st minute, as left back Akeem Ward scored from the left edge of the box. Then, in extra time, 901 FC defender Lucas Turci scored off an Aaron Molloy corner kick to give the Beale Street Boys a 2-0 halftime lead.
901 FC started the second half with even more aggression, and they would add to their lead in the 58th minute. Midfielder Luiz Fernando scored on a perfectly timed run and a quick assist from Rodrigo Da Costa.
Three minutes later, Memphis midfielder Laurent Kissiedou scored off a deflected save from El Paso goalkeeper Benny Díaz, giving 901 FC a 4-0 lead.
“El Paso is really sitting back,” said Memphis 901 FC season ticket holder Travis Stalans. “They’re allowing us to get the ball to our wings in space.”
A slew of substitutions for both teams followed, but neither team was able to score in the last 30 minutes.
Recently acquired goalkeeper Richard Sánchez made his first appearance with Memphis a memorable one, posting a clean sheet in his team debut. Sánchez, who was acquired from Hartford Athletic two weeks ago, could provide a much-needed defensive boost for 901 FC as they prepare for the playoffs.
The loss keeps El Paso in 7th place in the USL’s western conference, but they are now just two points ahead of being out of the playoffs altogether with one game remaining.
For 901 FC, the win along with Louisville’s tie on Saturday means that a win or a tie in their season finale next week at New Mexico United would secure the fourth seed and an opening-round home match in the playoffs.
“They are so close to clicking,” said 901 FC fan Sara Wells. “I feel like they could run through the whole thing. These games are my favorite thing in the whole world."
Next week will determine if Memphis fans will get to see the team at home again this season, but regardless, 901 FC gave their fans a convincing win Saturday.