CFC wins the USASA Amateur National Championship
CFC hosts NPSL National Finals in front of 18,227 fans
The team defeats second pro opponent in US Open Cup
Wins second NPSL South Region title and fifth Southeast Conf. title
CFC finishes as NPSL National Finalist, 17W - 1T - 3L
2015 Season Summary
The NPSL had exploded from 57 teams in 2014 to 92 teams in 2015, and the league was becoming more competitive because of the expansion. This expansion also allowed a new conference to start in Florida, so the Southeast Conference returned to: Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves, CFC, Georgia Revolution, Knoxville Force, Nashville FC, and New Orleans Jesters.
Bill Elliott returned to coach for his fourth season. Notable absences from the 2014 roster would be John Carrier, Thibault Charmey, Fynn Glover and Ivan Heredia. Notable newcomers were Nick Edington, Sean Rutter, Jon Finlay, Samuel Goñi and Juan Hernandez.
After having to travel away to play in the 2014 NPSL National Championship, the team was keenly aware that every point mattered in league play – home field advantage in the playoffs was at stake. The team had to win every game possible. So they started the NPSL regular season with an emphatic 6-0 win away to Georgia Revolution on May 9, 2015.
US Open Cup
CFC returned to the oldest tournament in the US by virtue of their second place finish in the NPSL in 2014. The club hosted amateur side Ocala Stampede in Finley Stadium on May 13, and played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time, so penalty kicks would decide the match. Keeper Greg Hartley came up big: with both a save and a goal to give CFC the win.
In the second round, CFC would again face Wilmington Hammerheads as they did in 2014, but this time the team would have to travel to North Carolina’s coast for the match. The team would go down 1-0 for most of the match, but Zeca connected with Chris Ochieng in the 81st minute to tie it all up 1-1. For the second Open Cup match in a row, CFC would go to penalties to decide the winner. This time backup keeper Chris Baker saved a PK to give CFC its second win against a pro opponent in the tournament. This would be the first time CFC had advanced as far as the third round.
The next opponent would be the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL – the team that had given CFC its worst defeat in history in the 2014 tournament (5-0). Chattanooga FC would again get to host the game at home in Finley Stadium. This season the game was much more competitive than the previous year, with both sides playing evenly and staying locked in a scoreless 0-0 draw through almost the entire match. But in the 87th minute, Zeca played the ball to Luke Winter in stride and he hit a fantastic strike to give CFC the 1-0 lead. It looked as though the club would advance to the fourth round. But in stoppage time, the center official awarded an extremely dubious penalty kick to Atlanta, and they tied it up at 1-1.
In the first half of extra time Atlanta would score a marvelous strike and then would hold on to win 2-1. CFC would be denied the victory. It was CFC’s fourth US Open Cup match to go to extra time in the club’s seven tournament games.
2015 USASA Amateur National Championship
Earlier in the year, on March 4, US Soccer and US Adult Soccer Assocation announced that Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium would host the 2015 National Amateur Championship tournament on May 29-30. There would be one team each from the four top amateur leagues: the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League (PDL) and the US Amateur Soccer Association’s Open and Amateur Champions.
Chattanooga FC was chosen compete in the tournament because the New York Red Bull II, who won the NPSL championship last year over CFC, had joined a pro league and were not eligible for amateur competition. The teams traveling to Chattanooga would be the Michigan Bucks (USL PDL), Maryland Bays (USASA Open Champion), NY Greek Americans (USASA Amatuer Champion).
CFC’s Semifinal match was equally contested by both the home side and the visiting Maryland Bays, and the teams would go to the half locked a 0-0. But just nine minutes into the second half midfielder Luis Trude would score off an assist from Leo DeSmedt. In the 74th minute Snoop Davidson would score with a Luke Winter assist and the team would hold on to win 2-0.
In the Amateur National Championship match against the Michigan Bucks of the PDL, each side held their own for much of the scoreless first half. But on the stroke of the 45th minute, Leo DeSmedt would score, assisted by Winter to put CFC up 1-0. Two minutes later, in stoppage time, Chris Ochieng would added another – again with a Winter assist, so CFC would carry a 2-0 lead into the halftime break. In the second half, Chattanooga would prove to be too much, and Snoop Davidson would ice the game with a goal in the 91st minute.
Chattanooga FC would be awarded the Hank Steinbrecher Cup by Hank Steinbrecher himself, and the team would celebrate its first national championship in history.
2015 NPSL Regular Season and Conference Playoffs
The team rode the momentum of its championship win with two 4-0 victories in regular season play, but then they stumbled with a 1-1 draw and a 2-1 home loss to the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves at home. The loss jolted the team back into action and they won the three remaining games in the season to finish in first place and to win the right to host the Conference Playoffs for the second straight season.
The team found its form in the playoffs, winning 5-1 over Nashville FC in the semis and getting revenge in a 3-0 win against the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves in the conference championship. The team would lift its fifth trophy, and fourth in a row, for winning the NPSL Southeast Conference.
2015 Chattanooga Shootings
On July 16, 2015, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga. He first committed a drive-by shooting at a recruiting center, then traveled to a US Navy Reserve Center center and continued firing, where he was killed by police in a gunfight. Four Marines died on the spot. A Navy sailor, a Marine recruiter, and a police officer were wounded; the sailor died from his injuries two days later.
The entire city was in shock and in mourning. The CFC Board discussed postponing the Region Semfinal Playoff scheduled for July 18 at Finley Stadium, but it quickly became evident that the public needed and wanted a way to come together to unite after the tragedy. The match would go on as scheduled. Shirts with the hashtag #NoogaStrong were sold before the match, with proceeds designated for a charity to benefit the victims and families affected by the events.
2015 Region Semfinals and Finals
A surprising 6,143 fans turned out for the Region Semifinal match against Miami Fusion FC. CFC Co-Founder, Board Member and former Air Force Officer Thomas Clark led a moment of silence before the match. The team wore black bands on their left biceps to honor the five military personnel who died. Poles on the visiting side of the field that normally display flags from different countries had American flags flying at half staff.
The first goal came in the 14th minute, as Zeca slid and put a Leo De Smedt feed in the back of the net. From that point forward, CFC had to be on the defensive as Miami presented a very organized attack and was able to create some opportunities. In the 28th minute, goalkeeper Greg Hartley ranged to his right to deflect a low shot by Raphael Carminati. The Fusion continued to create chances, even after a red card issued to Stanley Guirand in the 63rd minute forced the club to play a man down the rest of the match. CFC would pull out the 1-0 victory, but the team would have to travel away to the Myrtle Beach Mutiny (12-1-1) who would host the Region Championship.
The Region Championship game started off fast and furious – evenly matched with each team controlling and mounting attacks. Myrtle Beach had three close range free kicks within the first 12 minutes, but the Chattanooga FC defense held strong. The game ebbed and flowed with each team having its chances until the 23rd minute when Myrtle Beach’s Cameron Burrows missed on a slide tackle just inside the box and Chattanooga forward Chris Ochieng scored a lower left shot on the ensuing PK.
The second half started off fast-paced with Chattanooga on the move, but both teams had equal chances. Myrtle Beach midfielders broke through the stingy defense on many runs only to be stopped time and time again by the Chattanooga defense and goalkeeper Greg Hartley. Chattanooga’s Samuel Goñi broke the game open with a cross to Leo DeSmedt, who hammered home a hard shot for the second goal. In the 77th minute Goñi crossed the ball to open Chris Ochieng, who hammered home his second goal and seemingly putting the match out of reach.
Down 3-0, Myrtle Beach never gave up as substitutes intercepted a loose ball in the 82nd minute and got a shot finally past Hartley. Myrtle Beach’s second goal came just one minute later. The game’s pace became frenetic with many shots on goal, but in the end Chattanooga’s defense prevailed to close out the 3-2 victory.
2015 NPSL National Semifinal
Due to the rankings of the final four teams, Chattanooga FC returned to Finley Stadium for the National Semifinal match on August 1 against the Indiana Fire. At the match, CFC presented the Community Foundation with a check for $12,200 from the sales of #NoogaStrong T-shirts, the money went to benefit the families of the victims of the July 16 terrorist attack.
Chattanooga FC played an excellent game in the 3-0 victory in front of 9,236 fans – a record crowd for Finley. The game was back and forth in the first half, with neither team able to crack the other’s defense. But in the second half, CFC was able to put three into the net. Chris Ochieng scored in the 69th and 76th minutes, assisted on both by Zeca. And Luis Trude scored the final goal on an assist from James Moore in the 83rd minute.
Chattanooga FC was onto its fourth NPSL National Championship, but it again looked as though the boys in blue might not have the points-per-game average needed to host the game in Chattanooga. The New York Cosmos B side (the development team for the NASL’s New York Cosmos, perhaps American soccer’s most storied club) had won the other semifinal and had the upper hand.
2015 NPSL National Championship
The Chattanooga FC Board felt that while the Cosmos of the NASL had a wonderful fan base and a decent stadium, their development team of the amateur league NPSL would not attract much excitement and therefore not much attendance in New York City. The Board decided to see what could be done to get the team to come to Chattanooga for the match. They knew for certain that the game would attract more fans than the almost 10,000 that attended the semifinal. It would make for a great environment for a championship match, and help to grow the league. The Cosmos were persuaded and on August 3rd, it was announced that the title match would be in Chattanooga.
Word spread across the city, with online ticket sales soaring above 12,000 before the match day deadline. On gameday the excitement was everywhere, but especially around the stadium, with hundreds of tailgaters and hundreds of new Chattahooligans congregating before the match.
In the end, a record crowd of 18,227 watched the NPSL National Championship in person, and another 12,000 watched the game live online.
As the game finally got going, it was clear it would be a very even match. The CFC forwards pushed hard on the Cosmos B defense, and Chris Ochieng thrilled the crowd with an early goal that was called offside. Just before half Diaby of NY scored in the 44th minute, as he tapped in a rebound off a Hagop Chirishian free kick that glanced off the crossbar.The Cosmos led 1-0 at the half.
That lead held up until the 68th minute, when CFC’s Juan Hernandez – who had just been subbed in – received a ball in the box and attempted a shot. It was deflected, but Chris Ochieng was there with the solid follow that tied the match at a goal apiece.
The match went to overtime, and 30 seconds in, Diaby scored his second goal on a laser shot from about 25 yards out. The Cosmos then built on their lead in the final minutes of the first overtime, as Julian Stahler scored off a nice feed. It was as though all the air had been let out of the stadium and the Cosmos led 3-1 with only fifteen minutes left.
During the short break between extra time halves, the stadium blasted Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the fans seemed determined not to give up hope – cheering as the home side took the field.
Head Coach Bill Elliott decided to go for broke, subbing in an additional two tall forwards, Michael Brooks and Sias Reyneke. CFC started to attack with more people in the final 15 minutes and create chances. There was a cross that Nick Edgington got a head on, but the ball glanced off the side post. Moments later, the home team was able to cut the lead in half on a shot by Samuel Goñi, 3-2.
“When that final overtime started, the thought was to play for one more,” midfielder Luis Trude said. “We just needed one more goal to put pressure on them; then when that goal came, we felt we had it. We knew we were going to score again. The crowd was giving us energy they were so loud. We had a couple more chances, but their goalkeeper did a great job.”
CFC continued to fight, and in the match’s final moments, Goñi had final attempt that goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck dove to his left and got a hand on. Then the final whistle blew.
First National Championship: 2015 US Soccer Amateur National Champions · Five-time NPSL Southeast Conference Champions (four in a row) · Two-time NPSL South Region Champions · Advanced farthest in US Open Cup play in club history: 3 rounds, before losing in overtime to NASL Pro Atlanta 2-1 · First NPSL team to defeat a pro team in US Open Cup tournament two years in a row (Wilmington) · Most games in a season: 21 · Most wins in a season: 17 · Tied Most Goals in a season: 51 goals · Most post-season / tournament victories in club history: 9 (5 NPSL, 2 US Open Cup, 2 Amateur Cup) · Record attendance at the NPSL National Chapionship Match: 18,227 · Only 16 goals allowed in 20 games · Only NPSL team to go to four National Championship games · Third National Final match in just four seasons · Four trophies won for the club in 2015 · NPSL Coach of the Year Award· NPSL Goalkeeper of the Year Award
8W - 1T - 1L · NPSL Regular Season
2W - 0T - 1L · US Open Cup Playoffs
2W - 0T - 0L · USASA Amateur Championship
5W - 0T - 1L · NPSL Playoff Matches
17W - 1T - 3L · All Competitions
2015 Notable Players
Goalkeeper Greg Hartley registered nine shutouts and a 0.60 GAA in 15 NPSL matches this season. He would claim 11 shutouts and a 0.63 GAA in 19 total matches from all competitions in 2015 and would win his second NPSL Golden Gloves Award. Chris Ochieng scored a single season record 13 goals, Luke Winter was right behind him with 12, and Samuel Goñi scored 9 goals. Leo DeSmedt led with 7 assists on the season, while Luis Trude, Zeca and Samuel Goñi all had 6 assists. Jon Finlay, Sean Rutter and Nick Edington all contributed to an already stalwart defense.
2015 total home attendance was 65,421 in 14 matches.
Mohamed Aden, Matt Aldred, Othello Bah, Chris Baker, Michael Brooks, Jr., Louis Chandler, Leo De Smedt, Jordan Dunstan, Nick Edgington, Irvin Espinal, Jose “Zeca” Ferraz, Jon Finlay, Samuel Goñi, Juan Hernandez, Tom Halsall, Greg Hartley, Stephen Hohn, Jack Hopkins, James Moore, Chris Ochieng, Adam Reakes, Sias Reyneke, Sean Rutter, Nathanial Scere, Luis Trude, Luke Winter.
The 2015 Coaching Staff:
Head Coach: Bill Elliott; Assistant Coach: Jimmy Weekley; Goalkeeper Coach: Jordan Mattheiss.
2015 Chattanooga FC Women:
The Chattanooga FC Women played their second season, this time guided by Player-General Manager Gretchen Hammel and Head Coach Moises Drumond (a former men’s team player). The team finished with a 0W - 3T - 4L record, last in the Southeast Conference of the WPSL.
2015 CFC Related News
Chattanooga and CFC received worldwide press coverage for their attendance numbers. On ESPN during live coverage of an International Champions Cup match between Bayern Munich and Manchester United, announcer Taylor Twellman spoke about the 9,000+ in attendance at the National Semifinal. Landon Donovan tweeted congratulations to the team. Chelsea Football Club sent best wishes before the match, Sports news outlets like World Soccer Talk, Soccer America, the MLS web site and blogs in England and France were all amazed at the 18,227 attendance.
On August 19, 2015 the World Cup Champion U.S. Women’s National Team continued its Victory Tour with a 7-2 win against Costa Rica in front of a record crowd of 20,535 at Finley Stadium. The crowd was the largest for a stand-alone WNT friendly in the southeastern region of the United States. Fans braved torrential downpours to celebrate the team and see the victory.
In 2015 the club officially established the Chattanooga FC Foundation as a separate 501(c)3. Chattanooga Sports Ministries was established in 2005, but joined the Foundation as a program in 2015. The CFC Foundation’s vision is to enrich the lives of children and families in Chattanooga found in economically or culturally challenged neighborhoods. Chattanooga Sports Ministries seeks to partner with local churches. CSM invests in children’s development in a uniquely effective way to instigate social change and build up a strong community.