First draw vs MLS team: 1-1 vs FC Dallas
CFC wins Southeast Conference regular season
CFC loses in Conference Championship over controversial penalties
Chattanooga FC celebrated its ninth anniversary and its tenth season in 2018. The club was eager to put the 2017 season behind them. In failing to move beyond round one of the NPSL Playoffs, CFC did not qualify for the US Open Cup. Head Coach Elliott returned for his seventh season with the club. In the roster were notable absences: Samuel Goñi, Matt Aldred, Leo DeSmedt, Jon Finlay, Danny Reynolds, Danny Whitehall, Pete Pearson and Sindre Welo. Notable newcomers were Joao Costa, Phil D’Amico, Juan Sanchez, Daniel Valenciano and Everson Lima.
2018 Exhibition Matches
The club had again secured a preseason exhibition game against another side from Major League Soccer, this time facing FC Dallas on February 3. On a surprisingly warm day for February, 4,873 fans filed into the north stands in Finley Stadium – the opposite side from where they usually sat, due to construction on the south stands. Despite the unusual seating arrangement, the fans were just as excited as ever.
As in the 2017 friendly with Atlanta United, Chattanooga FC could not assemble the usual squad of players due the early date of the game, so the coaching staff had to collect a makeshift group for the match. Some would only play one or two matches for the club (like Jerry Saint-Vil, Sean Rutter and Joaquin Cabello), and several others would join the team for the entire season (Pierre Bocquet, Humberto Palaez, Joao Costa).
From the start the game was end to end, with both teams creating chances. CFC goalkeeper Humberto Palaez was tested often, but held tight until the 32nd minute when FC Dallas was finally able to score, going up 1-0.
But CFC continued to push forward using the speed of new players Joao Costa and Joaquin Cabello. Only ten minutes after Dallas’ goal, Cabello got to the endline in the far left corner and lofted a cross to the far post. Zeca found the ball and snapped a short header into the goal to tie the match at 1-1. It would be CFC’s first goal against a Major League Soccer opponent.
The second half was as competitive as the first, with both teams having opportunities to score, but with neither team converting. In the end, Chattanooga’s amateur side in the Division IV of US Soccer had tied the professional side of Division I. It was the first time the team had achieved such a feat.
The club continued its robust preseason schedule of matches with a game in March against Nashville SC (a new USL team in Divison II), then with April home and away matches against NPSL competitor Detroit City, and finally ending with a May match against the Seattle Sounders U23 side of the PDL (Divison IV).
A completely different CFC squad took the field in the match against Nashville SC, and the pro side took control of the match from the get-go, winning 3-1 decisively. A large crowd of 5,245 turned out for the home match against Detroit City. While the home side played a masterful game of possession soccer, the away team got the goals, winning 2-1. In the away match at Detroit, newcomer Pierre Bocquet fired a sublime pass up the right side of the field onto the foot of Charlie Clarke who scored a cracker of a goal to get the 1-1 tie. In the final exhibition before the NSPL regular season, CFC got the win over the Seattle Sounders development team 2-1 on goals from John Carrier and first season player Felipe Oliveira.
2018 NPSL Regular Season
The ever-changing NPSL had once again altered the Southeast Conference – Birmingham Hammers and Memphis City had exited the league, and a new teams from Knoxville (Emerald Force SC) and Greenville, SC (Greenville FC) had joined. Asheville City, Atlanta Silverbacks, CFC, Georgia Revolution, Inter Nashville and New Orleans Jesters all returned.
One of the more unusual stories of the season was that one of new players, Everson Lima, would come to CFC after an impressive career as a professional. The Brazilian had most notably played professionally in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A for Clube Atlético Juventus and in the Czech Gambrinus liga for Dynamo České Budějovice. He had experience with over a dozen professional squads in countries like Brazil, Czech Republic, Malta, Ukraine, Lebanon and even Hong Kong. Chattanooga FC had been recommended to him another former CFC player and fellow Brazilian Felipe Lawall (2012). Lima just showed up for the start of the season and walked on to the team.
The club started the season with three home games followed by a streak of six away matches in a row. The team got off to a shaky start, winning the first match then tying the next two. They would find much better form on the road, winning four, tying two and only losing one (to New Orleans). Back at home, the team would stumble: losing 4-2 to the Georgia Revolution. But they would recover to finish on an undefeated streak, winning three of the last four to claim the NPSL Southeast Conference regular season title. CFC would again host the Conference Playoffs in Finley Stadium.
2018 NPSL Southeast Conference Semifinal
Chattanooga FC squared off against Georgia Revolution, one of the only two teams who had been able to defeat CFC in the regular season. This time the defense held strong, shutting out the Revolution and getting the late win. Juan Hernandez scored what would be the game winner in the 72nd, and Joao Costa sealed the victory with a goal in the 90th. The team would advance to the finals to face longtime conference rivals, Atlanta Silverbacks.
2018 NPSL Southeast Conference Final
The rivalry between Chattanooga FC and Atlanta was the longest standing rivalry in the conference, dating back to 2009 and the days of Atlanta FC. There was no love lost between the teams, and this match was sure to be a heavyweight title fight.
The game was physical from the start, with many fouls and several cards in the first half. The first of what would be many controversial calls happened in the fourth minute when Juan Hernandez was fouled hard in Atlanta’s box, but the official would not award a penalty. Throughout the rest of the half the defense and goalkeeper Phil D’Amico were tested several times, but held strong to keep Atlanta scoreless. Although CFC was also unable to convert its chances and so the score was 0-0 at halftime.
The fight continued into the second half, with both sides creating chances, but neither able to score. Finally, in the 79th minute, Juan Hernandez found Everson Lima who put a thundering header into the goal and the 5,169 fans in Finley Stadium erupted. But the cheers turned to boos as the goal was ruled offside. To add to the controversy, later inspection of game video and photos would reveal that the sideline official was several yards out of position, and therefore not able to make an accurate offside call. But the call stood and the teams closed out regulation with a whopping eight minutes of stoppage time.
Atlanta pushed hard in the first fifteen minutes of extra time, but the teams were still deadlocked at 0-0 at the break. Six minutes into the second half of extra time, Atlanta were awarded a penalty kick and a shower of boos from the fans in Fort Finley who felt the call was completely unjustified. But first season keeper Phil D’Amico was unfazed and he delivered a powerful save – and the fans went crazy.
Finally the whistle blew and the match would be decided by penalty kicks. CFC would score the first two penalties and Atlanta would match them. But after Bocquet made CFC’s third, Phil D’Amico came up with another huge save – and pandemonium erupted in the stadium. But there was more controversy: the officials decided Phil D’Amico came off his line too soon and order the PK retaken. Atlanta made it 3-3. After Oliveira made the next penalty, D’Amico again saved another shot – and again the officials called him off his line. The next penalty was made by Atlanta.
In the end Atlanta would win 6-5 on penalties as Cameron Woodfin’s shot would go too high. While Atlanta players taunted the fans, jeers rained down on the officiating crew. It felt as though just too many calls went the wrong way, and the trophy went home with the wrong team. CFC’s season had come to an abrupt close.
A Bitter Controversy
At the close of the regular season the CFC Board was trying to make sense of unexplained shortcomings in the club’s finances when Bill Nuttall announced he would be resigning from the board. Just two days later, on July 27, General Manager and co-founder Sean McDaniel would announce his resignation and his move to join a new USL franchise in Chattanooga, funded by a Utah real estate developer, Bob Martino.
The announcement came as a complete shock to the Chattanooga FC Board, and it threw fans into confusion. The new USL team would be professional, in direct competition with CFC’s amateur team. This followed a pattern that the USL had been employing in other cities around the country: start a franchise in places that had good developing NPSL teams and put those teams out of business. This had happened in Memphis, Birmingham and Nashville (and it would happen in Greenville in 2019). Would it happen in Chattanooga?
To add to the chaos, rumors were flying that the USL franchise was in talks with Finley Stadium to use it as their home field. Would both teams be able to play there? Would only one get Finley – the highest bidder?
By October of 2018 the USL franchise would have a name: Red Wolves. As close as McDaniel and Weekley were to the coaching staff and players of Chattanooga FC, there was great concern that many others would move away from the amateur club for a chance to be part of a professional side. Those fears were realized on Oct 11, 2018 when a former CFC goalkeeper was announced as the first signee for the club’s 2019 USL League One debut, pending league and federation approval.
By the end of 2018, the vast majority of CFC’s fans – and even the city itself – decided they would stand by the Chattanooga Football Club. Finley Stadium made a commitment to support CFC and the USL franchise withdrew their plans to play at the stadium, settling at Chattanooga Christian School for their first season. Co-Founder Sheldon Grizzle stepped in to serve as interim President of CFC. A group of investors bolstered the club and shored up finances. Fans from around the country bought tickets, season passes and sent other support to the club. Coaches Bill Elliott and Jordan Mattheiss agreed to stay with the team, along with virtually all the current players.
On top of all of this, the club discovered an opportunity to finally offer true ownership to its fans, a dream of the founders since 2010. With help from Cutting Edge Capital, the owners were able to offer real stock in a soccer club to fans for the first time in the history of US soccer. The club made the proper preparations in order to launch the offering in early 2019.
8W - 4T - 1L · NPSL Regular Season
1W - 0T - 1L · NPSL Playoff Matches
1W - 2T - 2L · Exhibition Matches
10W - 6T - 5L · All Competitions
2018 Notable Players:
First season striker Felipe Oliveira led all scoring with 8 goals and Charlie Clarke added 6 goals. Joao Costa led with 5 assists on the season. New goalkeeper Phil D’Amico held 1.0 goal allowed per game average over 12 matches. Newcomers Juan Sanchez, Daniel Valenciano and Everson Lima were impressive in defense with Jordan Dunstan. Costa, Clarke and Oliveira were impressive on offense. Luke Winter played his eighth and final season with the club, finishing as all-time leading scorer with 54 goals, and also contributing 20 assists. It was also John Carrier’s final season with CFC, after six seasons he scored 15 goals and added 18 assists.
2018 total home attendance was 47,530 in 10 matches.
Pierre Bocquet, John Carrier, Charlie Clarke, Caleb Cole, Joaquin Cabello, Joao Costa, Nick Croucher, Phil D’Amico, Jordan Dunstan, Dino Jones, Jose “Zeca” Ferraz, Damian Gaona, Gabriel Gonzalez, Tom Halsall, Juan Hernandez, Michael Hornsby, Everson Lima, Santiago Moore, Felipe Oliveira, Humberto Palaez, David Perez, Niklas Rasch-Hegelund, Steven Rocca, Jonathan Ricketts, Stephen Ricketts, Juan Sanchez, Daniel Valenciano, Luke Winter, Cameron Woodfin, Soren Yuhaschek.
The 2018 Coaching Staff:
Head Coach: Bill Elliott; Assistant Coach: Jimmy Weekley; Goalkeeper Coach: Jordan Mattheiss.
2018 Chattanooga FC Women
In 2018 Head Coach Erin Ridley returned to lead the Chattanooga FC Women to their first WPSL Southeast Conference title. The team finished with a record of 7W - 0T - 2L as they fell in the WPSL South Region Final to Pensacola FC. Erin Ridley would move on to help coach and scout for the US Youth National Team and then to coach in the San Jose Earthquakes Academy.
CFC Related News in 2018 :
In March of 2018 CFC hosted the Summit for American Soccer. The conference set the table for a passionate and committed group of peers to come together to discuss the shared challenges and opportunities facing their organizations. Over 60 attendees from across the US came, representing a wide variety of soccer clubs, leagues, supporter groups and soccer-centric organizations. For a day and a half they joined to discuss how to have sustainable business models, stable leagues, quality opponents and enthusiastic support in their communities.
At the end of 2018 the CFC Women’s General Manager Gretchen Hammel would announce that the women’s team would be leaving CFC to join the new USL club. The departure was both surprising and disappointing to the club. As a result, Chattanooga FC would not field a premier women’s team in 2019 and 2020.