Tiger Host Final Non-conference Match
Oct. 30, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The remaining Memphis men's soccer season is down to three games, and tomorrow the Tigers host their final non-conference opponent in Alabama A&M. The Bulldogs are 1-1 this season against Conference USA opponents, dropping a 2-0 match at South Carolina and tagging UAB in the second overtime last week for a 1-0 win.
Having clinched a bid to the postseason tournament, Memphis currently sits in the middle of the pack in the C-USA standings, and tomorrow's match is the last live competition the Tigers will face before matches against UAB and FIU, when we'll see them jockeying for a higher tournament seed come season's end.
Again the Tigers prepare for a Wednesday match against a non-conference team heading into an important conference road game. Last week, it was Central Arkansas who stood in their way before the SMU match. The Tigers put three on the scoreboard for their fifth shutout, and then played some of their best football against the No. 1 team in the nation. They fell short, just a post away, in fact, as Tripp Harkins' game-tieing header ricocheted off the left post. But Memphis coach Richie Grant is encouraged.
"It was a very competitive match, and I thought it was an excellent goal from SMU, a really good counter-attack off a loss of possession on our part," said Grant. "We put in one of our better performances, but we were playing against probably the best team that we've seen this year."
Quite a compliment considering the gauntlet the Tigers have run so far: six of their opponents this year have been ranked in the top-25 in a major national poll, and three of them are top-10 teams at this point in the season.
Tomorrow Alabama A&M and head coach Salah Yousif will bring its mostly-African team to Mike Rose Soccer Complex and pit a fiercely athletic squad against Grant's Celtic-influenced team.
In 13 matches this season, the Bulldogs have netted 19 goals and allowed 15. They have handed opponents five shutouts behind the net-minding of their junior keeper, Paul Musoke. Their 2-0 loss at South Carolina is the largest margin of defeat the Dogs have witnessed this year, and of their six victories, five were clean sheets and four were wins by at least two goals.
MfanaFuthi Bhembe, a native of Manzini, Swaziland, leads Alabama A&M with five goals and an assist. His South African counterpart up top, Mosito Ranko, also has 11 points, coming off four goals and three assists. Bulldog midfielders have contributed nine of their other 10 scores this year. David Kimbugwe is the lone defender to have netted a goal for A&M.
Senior captains Jared Britcher and Kevin Walsh continue to lead the Tigers in points and goals, but Memphis will hit the pitch Wednesday without its utility man, as Britcher was sidelined against SMU. On a controversial ball near the goal box, Britcher took a knee below his left eye that may have fractured a bone in his face. While the team is consulting doctors regarding the extent of the injury, Coach Grant will make the precautionary move of benching Britcher Wednesday.
The Tigers will travel to the site of this year's C-USA tournament this weekend to face UAB in their final road match before hosting FIU on November 10 to wrap up the regular season. Kickoff tomorrow is scheduled for 7 p.m., and as it is Halloween night, the first 100 kids through the gate will receive a free Tiger trick-or-treat bag. There will be a costume contest at halftime, and as always, long-distance fans can follow the action with Gametracker at www.gotigersgo.com.