MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies play their first scrimmage Friday in Orlando.
The Cardinals have Opening Day in St. Louis.
But nothing compares to having the hometown team back in the hometown city, and Saturday Memphis 901 FC returns to AutoZone Park with a limited number of fans. The importance of this moment, beyond the soccer pitch, is not lost on the club.
"What we hope to be is a 90-minute reprieve from the stress of what is going on in the world right now," head coach Tim Mulqueen said.
Throughout the 901 FC's two-year history, many of the club's biggest events have often been forced to share the spotlight with other games on the same day.
Its introductory "901 Day" friendly on September 1, 2018 was held at the same time Tigers football opened their season at the Liberty Bowl. The first match in franchise history (March 9, 2019) wrapped up minutes before Tigers basketball tipped-off in their regular season finale against Tulsa at FedExForum. Even during the 2020 season opener (March 7), the Grizzlies were pummeling the Hawks just blocks away.
So it is only right that 901 FC will have the city's undivided attention Saturday as it hosts the first pro sports event in Memphis since COVID-19.
"We know that we're the only game in town," Mulqueen said. "We know that our fans and those in the city are looking towards us. We accept that responsibility, we are excited to represent our city."
"It's special to us, we're proud of the work we put in," Tim Howard said. "There were a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of big decisions that had to be made."
One such decision was to allow approximately 1,000 fans at home matches this season. Even at ten-percent capacity, the home crowd will be a welcomed sense of normalcy.
"Whether it is a full house or one person, it's important that we show out for our fans and that we give them a good account of ourselves," Howard said. "The fact that we'll have quite a few fans there is pretty special to the players and so if we can put on a show, even better."
You can watch all Memphis 901 FC matches on CW30 or Local 24. Saturday's home re-opener against Charlotte Independence will be broadcast live on CW30 at 7:30 p.m.