On Loan | Elliot Collier embraces a unique opportunity with Memphis 901 FC

collier memphis celebration

It didn't take long forElliot Collier to etch his name into Memphis soccer history.

The Chicago Fire forward, currently on loan at USL Championship expansion side Memphis 901 FC, has enjoyed a memorable stint in southwest Tennessee since his arrival on March 7.

His most recent endeavor - a three-goal performance in a 4-1 win against Hartford Athletic on July 6 – marked the first hat trick in Memphis 901 FC’s short history and earned the 24-year-old a trio of league accolades. Collier was named the USL Championship Player of the Week on Tuesday, an honor that accompanied a selection to the league’s Team of the Week and a win in its Goal of the Week fan vote.

“I feel like I’ve been having good performances, but just have been unlucky not to score some goals,” Collier said. “On Saturday it all came together and I scored three, so that was great. The support has been great, from everybody here in Memphis and people reaching out in Chicago.”

Collier has appeared 14 times (13 starts) for Memphis as they navigate their inaugural season, and he currently leads the team with five goals scored. From a developmental standpoint, he’s continuing to work on achieving the goals the Fire staff set out for him upon his departure.

“They keep an eye on me and keep in contact,” Collier said. “They told me what I needed to do when I first went on loan, which was to get minutes, get game time, experience, confidence, and score goals. That’s what I’m here to do.”

His hat trick performance last weekend was the second time Collier had been part of a major Memphis milestone while out on loan. The 24-year-old nabbed the first goal in the franchise’s history in its second-ever home match, a 1-1 draw with Loudoun United on March 16. Nine days after the loan was announced, a zig-zagging solo run and left-footed finish officially heralded Collier’s arrival in Memphis and helped endear a brand new club to its city.

“All of Memphis – the city and the fans – have been really, really supportive of us,” Collier said. “I’ve been playing a lot. I’ve pretty much started and played 90 minutes in most games. I’m playing lots of minutes so it’s really good to get games in and build your confidence.”

Adding to the weight of the moment, the goal came amid a turbulent period for both Collier and his native New Zealand. The day prior, March 15, Collier received news that a former friend and teammate had lost his life after the country was shaken by a terrorist attack at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch that claimed the lives of 50 people.

Sporting a black armband to honor the victims of the tragedy, the city and fans were alongside Collier to experience an emotional and historic moment as Collier's finish secured the club its first-ever point.

“Things like that don’t happen in New Zealand, so it was devastating,” Collier said. “It was really hard. I found out the day before our game on Saturday, then I just dedicated the game to that and put all that focus into having a good performance. I ended up scoring, so that was pretty special.”

In the months since, Collier has continued to embrace his opportunity to help shape a brand new club’s identity in a city with a rejuvenated appetite for professional soccer.

“Everybody that I’ve spoken to has been waiting for a professional soccer team here,” he said. “We’ve got lots of fans. You go to the grocery store or you go to get some food somewhere and you hear, ‘Oh you’re a Memphis 901 player. We love you guys.’”

Now halfway through the 2019 regular season, Collier is focused on helping the club continue to make history by earning its first berth in the USL Championship playoffs.

“I’m feeling really confident. The last game I took my chances well, so I’ve just got to make sure I keep doing that and take all the performances that I’ve had and keep moving forward.”

Collier and Memphis 901 FC are back in action on Saturday, July 13 against the Charleston Battery (5:30 p.m. CT, ESPN+).