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Quality Character The Theme At Memphis 901 FC Media Day

Memphis 901 FC has been having quite the off-season. They were able to retain a number of key players from last season’s team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and hosted a home playoff game. They brought in key attacking players like Neco Brett from the Birmingham Legion and Noe Meza from Union Omaha. They also hired a new
By Lawrence Dockery - February 22, 2024, 10:15 pm - 0 comments

Memphis 901 FC has been having quite the off-season. They were able to retain a number of key players from last season’s team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and hosted a home playoff game. They brought in key attacking players like Neco Brett from the Birmingham Legion and Noe Meza from Union Omaha. They also hired a new COO, Jay Mims. It’s an off-season that has excited many of the fans and Media Day at AutoZone Park on Thursday underscored that the team is excited about the off-season they’ve had as well.

“Yeah, really happy with the off-season in general in terms of what we brought in” said Assistant Sporting Director Caleb Patterson-Sewell. “We had specific profiles that we wanted to go and get. Specific character was a huge priority for us.”

He continued, “There’s many good players but character is something that affects team dynamics, it affects the locker room, it affects how you get in the community. So again, really really pleased with the early signs of where that’s at and where the group’s at. More importantly, I think we’ll be a more competitive group this year than we were last year.”

When asked to delve into how 901 FC goes about assessing a potential signing’s character, Patterson-Sewell elaborated.

“I don’t think you can do too much of unearthing what’s out there. We speak to the players at length, we obviously don’t sell them on anything. We show them what we are and what we stand for. What it means to get in the community, the way we work, and if they don’t identify with any of that we politely ask them not to come. And based off that we’ll speak to coaches, we’ll speak to ex-players. It’s not difficult to pick the phone up and connect with people that know people. We look for red flags. We put it all together to make a decision. I don’t think you can ever get it a hundred percent right because true colors sort of come out somewhere in the wash down the track. But as of right now the early signs are extremely encouraging with those guys.”

Patterson-Sewell wasn’t the only one at Media Day who stressed the importance of a player’s character in the team’s decision to sign them. Head Coach Stephen Glass echoed many of the same sentiments, adding, “I’ve liked the group and how it’s coming together. Any time you bring a number of new players in, you’re always concerned what it’s going to be like. I think we vetted them pretty thoroughly before they came in and the performances at Nashville and at Atlanta have shown that we made some good decisions.”

And according to Glass, now entering his second season as manager, all of the players they have signed this off-season are bought-in on 901 FC this year.

“As a first year coach, not in the league but in the club, you’re always walking into something that you don’t know what you’ve got. You walk into some great things and you walk into some little problem spots. This year we’re able to build something ourselves. We’re able to put together the group we want it to be. And guys that don’t particularly want to be here aren’t here anymore. So, we’ve got a group of guys that are desperate to be here, that want to be here and want to produce. If you’ve got that, you’ve got a real opportunity to go win. Everybody that came here, on every call we had, said they wanted to win. They wanted to come to Memphis and they want to be here and live here. So, that was music to our ears. There were some that didn’t say what we wanted to hear so we kind of moved on politely. But the ones that are here, you will see evidence of guys that want to be here and drive and fight for the club.”

Perhaps no player on the roster exemplifies the quality character of which Patterson-Sewell and Glass speak better than Leston Paul. One of the very first singings in 901 FC history, Paul is the longest tenured player on the team having been here since the team’s debut season in 2019. Fittingly, he has also been the captain the last several seasons. On top of that, the team announced last month that Paul will have an expanded role this season that will see him take on some coaching responsibilities. Everybody who spoke at Media Day was effusive in their praise of Paul.

“Leston is a fierce defender of the club and he’s been here from day one” said Patterson-Sewell. “You won’t find anybody in that locker room or organization that doesn’t speak highly of Leston. He’s as good of a guy as you’ll meet.”

Glass too had nothing but good things to say.

“It’s been good. It’s almost been an extension of what Leston does as a guy anyway. I think he’s been the captain here since day one. People know him. People love him. I felt that it was really important to have him close to the coaching staff to help him for whatever’s next. I already know he values it. I know that he’s good at it. And I know that somewhere down the line he’s going to be a top coach and probably a top manager.”

But it wasn’t just the coaches who already know him that had high praise for Paul. New signing Zac Duncan was especially grateful for the support he’s received from Paul since he arrived here in Memphis.

“Yeah, for sure. You guys were just speaking about Leston. He’s a great role model for younger footballers and younger players and just people in general. Definitely, he’s been someone who’s been speaking with me.”

For his part, Leston Paul says that his goal is to make sure that the other players on the roster are bought-in to what 901 FC is trying to do this season.

“For me, most importantly, it’s making sure that the players are happy and that the players are comfortable. That’s my goal. I feel like we have a great group of guys and personally I would always value having good people around. The head coach and Coach Caleb will take care of the tactical side, that’s their job. But for me it’s just making sure that the guys are on board, they’re bought-in and they’re here for one purpose and that’s to win.”

While character may have been the biggest topic of Media Day, it was far from the only one. Nighte Pickering spoke of how potent he believes 901 FC’s attack can be this season.

“Yeah, I think definitely. We’ve seen it throughout training and through the two preseason games we’ve had already. It’s looked really good. We’re still getting in touch with each other which will come naturally. But we still have two more preseason games to prepare for the season which will be good. I think we’ll be ready once March 9th hits for the game.”

Pickering then talked about how important it’s been for him to get off to a hot goalscoring start in the preseason (he scored the opener against Atlanta United in just the third minute).

“It is super important. As a forward you play off confidence so as soon as you get a goal early, you play with a lot of confidence and it builds up. To get a goal in the first preseason game against Atlanta felt great. I’ll keep building off it.”

And of course, questions about the US Open Cup were inescapable given that MLS is once again attempting a dastardly move to pull their teams out of the competition and effectively destroy it. But earlier this week the USL said that all of their teams would honor their commitment to the tournament and all teams would participate. Caleb Patterson-Sewell left no uncertainty when asked.

“I think I’d like to see everyone respect the Open Cup. It’s the longest Cup here. I’ve been a player. I’ve played in the Open Cup. I’ve played in Europe in Cups where you’re a top team and you play against a fourth division team on turf. That’s the joy of the Cup. It’s an open competition for a reason. It gives everyone a voice. I think the fans identify with it. And so as far as I’m concerned, we will participate in that. We will be a part of that. That was our footballing side’s wish from the outset. I would expect to see every other club follow suit. It would be a shame if other clubs don’t.”

But before the regular season starts and before any progress is made on keeping MLS from abandoning the Open Cup, 901 FC has a preseason game at 7pm on Saturday against the University of Memphis at the Billy Murphy Track & Soccer Stadium. The Tigers have been to consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in program history and last season won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time ever. Patterson-Sewell sees it as a valuable opportunity for 901 FC to be out in the community.

“We’ve always tried to play the college teams. We’re don’t care if it’s Division II or Division I or what you are. We’ll gladly get involved. We think that A) helps those schools bring people in and then equally lets us see what’s in our backyard.”


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