It was blue bedlam.
After a 19th minute set piece shot was deflected back into the field of play, Isabel Aguilar ripped into the fray.
She didn’t need a dribble or setup touch to get power on the rebound shot, and it accelerated past the keeper for a Chattanooga FC 1-0 lead. The team carried that momentum through the rest of the match, and CFC's revived women’s team came away with their first home win since 2018.
“It was either ‘I’m going to take a touch’ or ‘I’m going to shoot it right now,’” Aguilar said. “We’ve been practicing volleys and I’ve been missing them, but during the game I make this one. It’s pretty exciting to get one on the first touch.”
The 2-1 win over North Alabama SC wasn’t easy though. The visitors played over half of the game with a numerical advantage after Nathaly Villalobos was tagged with a red card for a last-ditch tackle in the 40thminute. Many teams, especially those with a 1-0 lead, would have parked the bus and given up trying to get a second goal. Coach Randy Douglas’ team wasn’t having any of that though.
“During halftime I told them that we’re better than they are, and you can’t back down now,” coach Douglas said, while Aguilar added, “Everybody was in their heads (when the red card was handed out) but after second half adjustments, everyone got into it.”
CFC’s brave offense was admirable, but that philosophy was only possible because of the team’s faith in their unshakable back line (and goalkeeper Caroline Johnson). They were unshakeable under intense pressure from Alabama, and left back Kaitlyn Caminiti was shouted out by her coach as one of the team’s “rocks”.
“We knew that if you step, someone has you covered,” said Caminiti. “So if my girl goes and she gets beat, that’s okay because I have her back and I know she’ll work her ass off to get behind me. That's how it works.”
Damaris Gaines gave CFC a 2-0 advantage in the 62nd minute when she flew into the box and headed the ball over the keeper’s arms. Finley Stadium’s crowd of 800 or so was rocking once again as the team and supporters sat a half-hour away from the team’s first win of the year.
That second goal proved invaluable when Alabama scored off a set piece in the 81st minute. Keeper Caroline Johnson was otherwise flawless and at times seemed to be the sole reason CFC did not concede a second goal. That was the only point in the entire game when it could be argued Alabama outplayed CFC, who came away with three points at the end of 90-plus minutes.
“I told them that if you get a second goal, we’ll feel good about it,” coach Douglas said. “The (opponent’s) goal was unfortunate but hats off to them for sticking around. But I think we were the better team tonight.”
About Chattanooga Football Club
Chattanooga Football Club was founded in 2009 with a Men's team and established a Women's team in 2013 to begin play 2014. In its most recent season of 2018, CFC Women went undefeated in the regular season to become the WPSL’s Southeast Conference Champions. The Women's team went on hiatus for three years during a club reorganization and during the pandemic. Chattanooga Football Club became the first soccer club to offer true ownership to the fans in 2019 with 3,200+ investors from Chattanooga, all 50 states, and 31 countries.
About the Women’s Premier Soccer League
In its 24th season, the WPSL is the longest active women’s soccer league and with more than 125 clubs from coast to coast in 35 states and, serves as the largest women’s soccer league in the world. WPSL rosters feature elite collegiate, post-collegiate, international, and standout prep student-athletes. Many of the United States’ most accomplished women’s players have played in the WPSL, including household names such as Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain.