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'Our group is our biggest crown jewel': How Memphis 901 FC is building from the ground up

We had to go behind the scenes in order to truly uncover why the squad is an Eastern Conference force in 2022.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Head Coach Ben Pirmann and the Memphis 901 FC are off to the club's best start in franchise history.

We had to go behind the scenes in order to truly uncover why the squad is an Eastern Conference force in 2022. 

A portion of the credit is due to Assistant Sporting Director Caleb Sewell. Working alongside Sporting Director Tim Howard, the pair signed over 20 players and loaned in several players since January.

The former professional goalkeeper said the player's mentality is very important when they look to sign new players. 

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"A big thing that we place an emphasis on this year in recruitment, is making sure the person himself has a reason, has a why, is going to fit in the group," Sewell said. "So, if you speak to anyone on our team, our group is our biggest crown jewel."

Sewell uses his over 15 years of professional soccer experience to aid in identifying and signing players. 

"I think one of the biggest things is when you play out of the country, you open yourself to whole different players —  a player pool — and where we can sort of get an edge, if you will," Sewell said.

When Sewell goes through the process to sign a player leading to success on the field, he's elated to see his and Howard's work pay off.

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"With any player, once you put in the hours doing your homework and background checks, and ultimately your gut feeling when you feel that it is going to work out ... I think for staff, myself, Tim and whoever, it is a good feeling because it's one more step along the right track to where we want to go," Sewell said.

One of those recently signed players that could help lead the 901FC to title-winning glory is 17-year-old Nighte Pickering. The former United States National Team U-19 member signed with Memphis on August 1 and made an immediate impact. 

Needless to say, he was excited to score in his professional debut. 

"It was amazing, obviously," Pickering said. "I wasn't expecting a score to go like that. I always knew you only get one pro debut and I wanted to make my mark on it. I wanted to score, but I never thought it would be a bicycle kick."

RELATED: International Memphis 901FC players break down their journey from overseas

Sewell understands that it takes time in order to build a sporting dynasty. For now, the goal is to make the playoffs.

"We're a young club," Sewell said. "If you go back to where we started, the COVID years and all those sorts of things, this is probably the strongest group that the club's ever had. We'll just make sure that we continue to take the steps forward on a weekend and ideally, be in the playoffs at the end of the year. If you're there, it's anyone's shot."

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