First match vs MLS team, Atlanta United, in front of 12,484
CFC loses in first round of NPSL Conference Playoffs
CFC finishes 9W - 4T - 5L
After the very high standard set by the 2014, 2015 and 2016 teams, expectations for 2017 remained quite high. Bill Elliott was back for his sixth season, and so were many of the team’s most talented players. Notable absences were Michael Brooks, Luis Trude, Tom Halsall and Greg Hartley, and Samuel Goñi would be on the roster, but unable to play until late in the season due to a knee injury. Notable newcomers would be Darwin Lom, Felipe Oliveira, Pete Pearson, Paulo Pita, Danny Whitehall, Jerry Wiltshire and Cameron Woodfin.
2017 Exhibition vs Atlanta United
In an historic match for both clubs, Chattanooga FC would host Atlanta United FC, who would take the field for the first time in a preseason match in Finley Stadium on February 11, 2017. It would be the first time that CFC would face an opponent from Major League Soccer (Division I of US Soccer). With many Atlanta fans making the trip an hour and half north to see their team for the first time, CFC saw its second largest crowd ever in Finley Stadium as 12,484 were on hand to see the exhibition match.
Along with Atlanta’s famed Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino were many stars and rising stars: Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez (who set the record for most goals in an MLS season in 2018), Greg Garza, Brad Guzan, Jeff Laurentowicz, Michael Parkhurst and Hector Villalba, all of whom took the field in Finley Stadium.
Head Coach Bill Elliott had the difficult task of assembling a team three months earlier than the club would usually need to for the NPSL’s usual summer season. To complicate matters, the team’s star goalkeeper Greg Hartley would be unavailable due to visa complications. Elliott’s Division IV level amateurs would be facing some of the best Division I professional talent in the US.
Several recruits, like former Cosmos B goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck and Jerry Wiltshire would join the team just for the game. Others, like the NAIA’s leading scorer, Danny Whitehall, would join CFC for the season.
While Atlanta clearly had the stronger talent and won 4-0 with two goals in each half, Chattanooga FC held their own – most notably with a first minute attack on goal that resulted in Luke Winter leaving the match with an injury. In the second half, Snoop Davidson created an amazing chance that Marc Tautz just couldn’t net. All in all, the weather was wonderful and the game was a great experience. The same Atlanta squad would defeat Minnesota United of the MLS 6-1 in its first league match. They would also go on to finish fourth in the MLS Eastern Conference in 2017, and then go on to win the MLS Cup in 2018.
2017 US Open Cup
Exactly three months later, on May 11, Chattanooga FC traveled to North Carolina to battle the Charlotte Eagles of the PDL in the US Open Cup. While Chattanooga FC kept a scoreless draw through the first seventy minutes of the match, Charlotte’s speed was causing trouble for the defense. In the 72nd minute the Eagles would get a goal to take the lead. While CFC pressed for a equalizer, Joao Costa (who would later play for CFC) would seal the win 2-0 with a goal in the 89th minute.
2017 NPSL Regular Season
Just three days later the team traveled all the way down to New Orleans to begin the regular season campaign. CFC started brightly with newcomer Felipe Antonio scoring in the 6th minute, but NOLA would even things up in the 31st minute on a shot that would normally be a relatively simple save. The mistake and the subsequent 1-1 draw would be an omen of what was to come in the rest of the season.
Teams of the Southeast Conference had again changed, back to East and West divisions: Knoxville Force and Georgia Revolution moved to the east, Nashville FC had departed the league entirely, and new clubs had joined: Inter Nashville in the West, Atlanta Silverbacks, Asheville City and Carolina United in the East.
CFC seemed to have trouble getting going in Southeast Conference play: the home opener was postponed after 20 minutes of play due to terrible thunderstorms, then CFC would have two scoreless draws on the road before finally pulling a win away at Birmingham. Another 1-1 draw with NOLA appeared to be followed by a 1-1 draw with Inter Nashville in Finley Stadium when Danny Reynolds made a heroic free kick. In the 92nd minute) – stoppage time – CFC won a free kick ten yards outside the Inter Nashville box. Reynolds coolly stepped and slotted a perfect shot into the far right upper ninety of the goal to give CFC the late win. To the ecstatic crowd of 4,122 it felt as though the season’s fortunes may have changed.
As the team continued its strange schedule of five straight home matches, it seemed that the opponent’s goals had finally been unlocked: two straight matches of 5-0 wins felt extremely promising. But then Memphis City came into town with a stalwart defense and pulled out 2-1 upset in Finley Stadium and CFC faltered. They followed that loss with a 2-1 loss on the road to Inter Nashville and dropped into second place in the West Division.
Following the famine of the last two games came two feasts of goals: a 7-0 win and 5-0 win to wrap up the season at home. CFC’s 6W - 4D - 2L record was only good enough for a second place finish in the West, so the team would have to travel to New Orleans for the Conference Playoffs.
2017 Southeast Conference Playoffs
CFC would face Inter Nashville, a solid team that had proved difficult competition for the boys in blue. Each team had beaten the other 2-1 on their home field, how would they fair on a neutral site in the “win-or-go-home” playoffs? CFC certainly had far more experience than first season Nashville.
Chattanooga FC would start off well, with Leo DeSmedt giving the team the 1-0 at the half. But things would falter in the second half as two Inter goals lifted Nashville to the win. Chattanooga FC had lost in the first round of the NPSL playoffs for the first time in its history. There would be no trophies this season and CFC’s five straight Southeast Conference Championships had come to an end.
To CFC’s credit, they lost to an Inter Nashville side that would win the Southeast Conference and the South Region Semifinal before falling 1-0 in Texas in the South Region Final.
2017 Friendlies & Exhibitions
Aside from the exhibition match with Atlanta United FC, CFC hosted Chivas U23s from Guadalajara, Mexico on May 27 – their fourth friendly in history with a side from Mexico. The teams would play evenly for most of the match, but substitutes and first season players Darwin Lom and Charlie Clarke would net goals to give CFC the 2-0 win.
With no chance to host playoff games, the CFC front office quickly coordinated the “Blue Ridge Derby” with first season NPSL club Asheville City SC to have one last exhibition match in Finley Stadium for the season. Asheville City graciously assembled a team to travel to Chattanooga, even though most of its NPSL squad had departed following the end of the regular season.
After the famine in the playoffs, CFC would feast on goals in the Blue Ridge Derby with a 9-0 win over Asheville City. Leo DeSmedt would score a 45 yard strike and Samuel Goñi would play his last match with CFC to score a hat trick, all assisted by Luke Winter.
6W - 4T - 2L · NPSL Regular Season
0W - 0T - 1L · US Open Cup Playoffs
1W - 0T - 0L · International Friendlies
0W - 0T - 1L · NPSL Playoff Matches
1W - 0T - 1L · Exhibition Matches
9W - 4T - 5L · All Competitions
2017 Notable Players:
Felipe Oliveira would lead all scorers with 7 goals on the season, while Winter and Goñi each added 4 goals. John Carrier, Leo DeSmedt and Luke Winter would each contribute 4 assists on the season. Each of the goalkeepers struggled during the season, with Paulo Pita and Pierre Gardan splitting almost all the games. The NAIA’s leading scorer Danny Whitehall also never found his rhythm with CFC, only scoring two goals in the campaign.
However, Whitehall and many other players from this squad would go on to play professional soccer: Othello Bah - Miami FC (NPSL, NISA, USL Championship); Leo DeSmedt - Iraklis 1908 Thessalnoki (Greece); Samuel Goñi Peña Sport Fútbol Club (SPA), also for Celaya FC located in Celaya, Guajauato, Mexico (Ascenso MX, Div 2 of Mexican soccer); Juan Hernandez - Chattanooga FC (NISA 2020); Darwin Lom - Chattanooga FC (NISA 2020); Pete Pearson - Oakland Roots (NISA, USL Championship); Paulo Pita - Drafted by LAFC (MLS), plays for North Carolina FC (USL Championship); Danny Reynolds, drafted by Seattle Sounders (MLS), plays for Tacoma Defiance (USL Championship); Jonathan Ricketts - Chattanooga Red Wolves (USL 2020); Danny Whitehall - Kilmarnock (Scottish Premier League), also for Maidenhead United (English National League); Jerry Wiltshire - Maidenhead United (English National League); Cameron Woodfin - Chattanooga FC (NISA 2020); Soren Yuhaschek - Chattanooga FC (NISA 2020); Zeca - Chattanooga FC (NISA 2020).
2017 total home attendance was 47,924 in 10 matches.
Matt Aldred, Felipe Antonio, Othello Bah, Chris Baker, Kieran Bywater, John Carrier, Charlie Clarke, Caleb Cole, Carlos De La Blanc, Leo Desmedt, Jordan Dunstan, Jose “Zeca” Ferraz, Jon Finlay, Pierre Gardan, Samuel Goñi, Juan Hernandez, Dino Jones, Jacob Lever, Darwin Lom, Josiah McDaniel, Felipe Oliveira, Paulo Pita, Pete Pearson, David Perez, Danny Reynolds, Jonathan Ricketts, Stephen Ricketts, Kevin Roenpage, Marc Tautz, Sindre Welo, Danny Whitehall, Jerry Wiltshire, Luke Winter, Cameron Woodfin, Jake Young, Soren Yuhaschek.
The 2017 Coaching Staff:
Head Coach: Bill Elliott; Assistant Coach: Jimmy Weekley; Goalkeeper Coach: Jordan Mattheiss.
2017 Chattanooga FC Women
First year Head Coach for the Chattanooga FC Women, Erin Ridley, came into the position asking a lot from the team with the style of play she expected. Despite a 1-5-2 record and a last-place finish in the Women’s Premier Soccer League’s South Conference’s, Southeast Division she feels that the team is in good position to succeed in 2018.
2017 CFC Related News
Chattanooga FC announced a partnership with German Bundesliga’s VfL Wolfsburg.
Chattanooga FC and Wolfsburg Vfl signed a letter of intent, which signals the start of a trans-Atlantic partnership between the two clubs, not limited to youth development, women’s soccer, and local social responsibility. There are also hopes of an international friendly between the two clubs.
“Having a partner like VfL Wolfsburg strengthens the Chattanooga FC brand. They are a great partner and share many of the same important values that we do. We are looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship” said Tim Kelly, Chairman of the Chattanooga CF board.