Chattanooga Football Club finished its best season since turning pro, hosting Chattanooga’s first ever national semifinal in professional soccer.
With a new head coach, full-time assistant coach, and an overhauled roster the 2022 edition of the boys in blue brought an exciting brand of soccer to the Scenic City. Rod Underwood was announced as CFC Men’s team head coach on December 3, 2021 and brought his assistant coach Chris Nugent from Stumptown AC in Charlotte.
Chattanooga Football Club led the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) in several categories including highest attendance in the league, most goals, goal differential, leading goal-scorer, most average passes per game, highest average completed passes per game, and #1 in defensive duels won per game. CFC also tied with Cal United for most regular season wins and fewest regular season losses.
On the season, CFC scored 56 total goals including 44 in league play. The other goals came in US Open Cup competition (3), Independent Cup competition (3), and friendlies (6).
MARCH (Record 0-0-1) 2022 kicks off on crisp early spring day
The first match of the season saw a familiar foe come to Finley Stadium as Chattanooga hosted Maryland Bobcats from just outside Baltimore. It was a scoreless first half but Ian Cerro would give the boys their first lead of the season when he collected his own rebound to score after a saved penalty kick in the 49’. Maryland would even things up in the 86th minute and CFC’s first win of the 2022 would have to wait.
Ronald McDonald House of Greater Chattanooga was the CFC Cause of the Night for March 26, meaning a portion of ticket sales benefitted this local non-profit.
APRIL (Record 1-2-1) Huge win over USL Championship side in US Open Cup
Two out of the four matches in April were U.S. Open Cup matches broadcast on ESPN+ against teams in higher divisions. Chattanooga flew to Syracuse for their first away game in league play on April 3. It would have to wait as spring snow settled in upstate New York and made the artificial turf surface unplayable. The game would be postponed until July.
The boys had a third round match with USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC on tap just four days later on April 7. They would not be intimidated as Chattanooga FC’s Alex McGrath scored the opening goal in the first minute. It was CFC’s Travis Ward and Taylor Gray who would add two more in the 29’ and 45’. The final score ended 3-1 for one of the biggest wins in CFC history.
The next opponent in U.S. Open Cup play would be MLS side Atlanta United on the road. But Chattanooga FC had one more league game to take care of. The boys flew to Phoenix, Arizona to face league newcomers Valley United. The game ended 0-0 but ended up becoming a forfeit when it was revealed Valley United used ineligible players. The club would exit the league a few months later.
On April 20, hundreds of Chattanooga faithful made the trip down I-75 to support the home club against Atlanta United on the campus of Kennesaw State University. Nearly 4,000 turned out for the game and CFC fans brought the noise. The hosts would not allow drums from CFC in the stadium. So, Chattahooligans brought plastic kazoos and other small noise-makers for effect. Atlanta flexed its muscle and its $20 million payroll with a 6-0 result over Chattanooga FC. Rookie Alex Jaimes, NC State, would see his first action as a pro for CFC.
With CFC out of the U.S. Open Cup it turned its attention back to league play with a loss to Flower City Union on April 30 that would turn out to be an anomaly. Chattanooga FC held 67% of the possession but Flower City scored on a late counterattack in the 85’ to upset Chattanooga FC at home.
Chattanooga FC supported Bethlehem Center and McKamey Animal Center as Causes of the Night during the two home matches in April.
MAY (3-0-0) Undefeated month and 11-3 goal differential
The boys were undefeated in May thanks to a haul by Markus Naglestad and a hattrick by Taylor Gray. The month began on May 7 with a trip to Baltimore to face the Maryland Bobcats. Markus Naglestad would score in the 38’ and Alex McGrath earned the insurance goal in the 52’ to win 2-0. Kevin Gonzalez earned the shutout.
After a short break the boys flew to Rochester, NY and found revenge for their early season loss. Naglestad hauled in four goals and Ian Cerro added a fifth as they hammered Flower City Union 5-1.
The scoring continued at Finley Stadium on May 28 when CFC hosted league newcomers Bay Cities FC from California. It was Taylor Gray’s coming-out party when the CFC forward scored a hattrick and Naglestad added a fourth. CFC would win convincingly 4-2 and fans were able to officially welcome summer with a massive fireworks show over Finley Stadium.
As the lone home game of May, CFC supported Friends of the Troops as its local Cause of the Night.
JUNE (2-0-2) Undefeated month and $9,000+ pledged for Prideraiser
The team’s undefeated run would continue in June while outscoring opponents 7-1 in the month. Former CFC coach Peter Fuller returned to Finley Stadium for the first time on June 11. Goals by Taylor Gray, Markus Naglestad, and Alex McGrath sealed the deal. Kevin Gonzalez earned the clean sheet in a 3-0 result.
The boys would fly out west again to face Bay Cities FC. Gonzalez would earn another shutout on the way to a 3-0 win on June 18. Brett Jones got his first goal of the season in the 3’. Markus Naglestad added another and Travis Ward finished the scoring.
After taking care of business in the San Francisco area the bus traveled down to Los Angeles for the first of two meetings with the LA Force in 2022. Markus Naglestad got CFC on the board early with a goal in the 2’. LA would get the equalizer in the 49’ and 1-1 would be the final score. CFC controlled 58% of possession and had 6 shots on goal compared to LA’s four.
The Michigan Stars bus would roll into Chattanooga on June 25 for a showdown between eastern leaders. Chattanooga FC controlled 73% of the possession in the match and had twice as many shots on target. But the result would end the way it started, 0-0.
Chattanooga Football Club joined the Chattahooligan Prideraiser initiative in June to benefit UTC’s Spectrum organization. Supporters pledged various dollar amounts for every goal CFC Men and CFC Women scored in the month of June. Pledges topped $900 per goal (10 total goals) for a total of $9,021 pledged to support inclusivity and awareness efforts by Spectrum.
In addition to Spectrum, CFC supported YMCA and Kidney Foundation as their Causes of the Night for home games in June.
JULY (3-0-0) Unbeaten streak continues; another trophy for the cabinet
The unbeaten streak for Chattanooga FC would stretch to seven heading into July and the boys would go undefeated to make it ten games without a loss. It all started on July 2 when Syracuse Pulse returned to Finley. Rookie Greg Stratton would earn his first goal as a pro in the 18’. Markus Naglestad scored in the 81’ on a penalty kick for the final score of 2-1.
The boys would have a much-deserved week off before hitting the road again for a trip to Rochester, NY and a rematch with Flower City Union on July 16. Markus Naglestad would score a brace on the way to a 5-0 rout including a penalty in the 16’. Roddy Green and Alex Jaimes would get their first goals in blue. Taylor Gray also added another goal to his season. Alec Redington earned a clean sheet in goal.
Chattanooga FC hosted amateur side Club De Lyon FC from Orlando in the Independent Cup Southeast Final at Finley Stadium on July 23, on the club's annual Christmas in July themed night. The amateur side earned the right to play CFC by a strong showing in Independent Cup play. Coach Rod Underwood would rotate several players from the regular starting lineup. Colin Stripling scored in the 19’ but the visitors would even things up moments later. They would then get the go-ahead goal in the 24’. Half-time substitutions brought in a few league regulars including Taylor Gray. It would be Gray with the game-winner in the 82’ to add another trophy to the CFC cabinet.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga as well as Cempa Community Care were the July Causes of the Night for CFC home games. The club collected toys for Erlanger Children's Hospital during its Christmas in July night.
AUGUST (1-3-2) CFC Named NISA Club of the Month
The winning streak continued one more game when Maryland Bobcats came to town on August 6. Markus Naglestad and Taylor Gray would score again in the 7’ and 45’ respectively. Greg Stratton netted his second goal of the season in the 30’. Hundreds of CFC Academy players were in the stands for the club’s annual Academy Night.
The 11-game unbeaten streak would set up a showdown between #1 in the East vs #1 in the West on August 10 as Cal United paid a visit to Finley Stadium on a Wednesday night. Chattanooga possessed the ball 69% of the time and took 13 shots compared to 8 shots by Cal United. But it would be the visitors who scored the lone goal in the 71’.
An uncharacteristic performance on the road in Syracuse on August 14 would give Chattanooga FC a second straight loss for the only time this season. They fell 0-3 while playing down ten men after Colin Stripling was sent off in the 8’.
The Michigan Stars bus rolled back into Finley Stadium on August 20. It was more of the same and the game ended 0-0. Chattanooga FC controlled possession with 67% and had four shots on target compared to one for Michigan.
Another road trip to the Baltimore area on August 27 saw the boys face the Maryland Bobcats. Damian Rodriguez scored his first goal of the 2022 campaign in the 30’ to give CFC the lead. Maryland would equalize in the 49’.
The fans were awarded a bonus match on August 31 as the club hosted amateur side Metro Louisville for a late summer friendly. Again, Coach Rod Underwood would use this as an opportunity to rotate the roster. Chattanooga FC would jump to a 2-0 lead with goals by Damian Rodriguez and Roddy Green but it would be Louisville who earned the next three goals to win 3-2.
Bay Cities FC announced on August 26 it would be suspending operations for 2022 due to financial constraints. As a result, NISA moved from a split table of East/West to a single table format. It would also revise standings to be based on average points per game instead of total points. As a result, CFC was now #2 in the single table behind Cal United.
The busy August of home games allowed CFC the opportunity to support four local organizations by donating a portion of ticket sales. Checks were distributed to CoLab, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Signal Centers, and Lana’s Love Foundation.
SEPTEMBER (3-0-2) - Undefeated month. Rod Underwood named NISA Coach of the Month. Markus Naglestad named Player of the Month
September would be a chance to bounce back as the push to the playoffs really picked up momentum. It began with a two-game west coast trip. Competition resumed in Irvine on September 4 for a rematch against first place Cal United at their place. Chattanooga FC was on the front foot at the opening whistle. An early goal by Ian Cerro got CFC on the board in the 6’. It would be followed just six minutes later when a piece of creative work by Damian Rodriguez on the wing set up Markus Naglestad for the 2-0 lead in the 12’. Cal would get on the board in the 39’ and cut CFC’s lead in half. The points would be shared, however, as Cal United earned the equalizer in the 69’.
The boys would travel 85 miles south to San Diego three days later to face Albion San Diego on September 7 in what was a battle for second place at the time. A physical battle awaited the team and San Diego would strike first in the 14’. CFC went into halftime down 0-1. A short corner in the 47’ saw Markus Naglestad taken down in the box. The league’s leading scorer had no trouble with the penalty to equalize for CFC. But the team pushed for more and were awarded in the 58’ by a beautiful cross from Tate Robertson to Alex McGrath for the game-winner. Albion would have no chance to get back in it after a second yellow sent Khadim Seye off and his team left to play with 10 men. Chattanooga’s west coast trip was productive in bringing four points back to the Scenic City.
There would be little rest as Los Angeles Force paid their first visit to the Scenic City in 2022 for a match on September 10. Chattanooga FC was looking for additional points to solidify its chances at a bye in the first of the playoffs. CFC would get the early lead on a Markus Naglestad goal in the 7’. LA Force would actually go ahead 2-1 with two quick goals in the 23’ and 24’. But Alex McGrath matched his jersey number with a goal in the 33’. Then Ian Cerro put the boys ahead for good right before the half with a goal in the 44’. The final score would remain 3-2 as neither team added a goal in the second.
Chattanooga FC took an overnight sleeper bus to Detroit the next week and faced off with Michigan Stars on September 18. After the first two meetings ended 0-0, surely the tie could be broken. It was not to be as the boys split the points on the road with another 0-0 draw with the defensive-minded Stars.
The matchup with last-place Flower City Union on September 24 proved to be a greater challenge than expected. Before the game, 1,000 fans received the club’s first ever bobblehead giveaway as the club honored CFC legend and long-time captain Juan Hernandez. Markus Naglestad made sure CFC had the lead at halftime with a goal in the 36’. But Head Coach Rod Underwood knew his side had to earn the win for a chance to host a playoff game. He kept his starting lineup in as CFC fought to hold the lead. Only one substitution was made when Alex Jaimes came in for Damian Rodriguez in the 76’. On paper, the margin should have been more comfortable. But CFC did what it needed to do to earn all three points.
The final Cause of the Night for the 2022 season was La Paz and then CFC welcomed all organizations back for a homecoming on September 28, presented by Chambliss.
OCTOBER (2-1-0) Push to the Playoffs
Having earned the first-round bye, Chattanooga FC knew it would advance straight to the league semifinal on October 30. To avoid the long layoff and to give the fans an additional home match, Chattanooga hosted MLS Next Pro side Charlotte FC. The MLS Next Pro league is the newest edition to Division 3 of the US Soccer pyramid. It was Fan Appreciation Night at Finley Stadium and the boys in blue put on a show. First-half goals from Chris Bermudez (2), Roddy Green, and Juan Hernandez sealed the win. With the game easily in hand, Chattanooga FC surrendered a late goal to end with a 4-1 victory. Fans were treated to a huge fireworks show in a night to be remembered.
One more regular-season commitment remained as Chattanooga FC traveled back to Detroit to face Michigan Stars on October 15. The result would have no bearing on the playoffs as Michigan was already locked into a home quarterfinal and CFC were promised a home semifinal after the first-round bye. The game started quickly with a goal by Michigan Stars in the 2’ to make sure this one did not end 0-0 as the previous meetings had in 2022. However, a tie was still a strong possibility when Markus Naglestad evened things up in the 16’, a score that would hold until the 52’. Michigan Stars got the go-ahead goal and seemed to be ready to hunker down and watch the clock tick. Brett Jones had other plans as he leveled things up again in the 68’. Would it be another CFC-Stars tie? Not on this night. Jones went for the brace and got the win for his team with a laser from outside the box in the 87’. Final score: 3-2 CFC.
Michigan would win its quarterfinal playoff game against Syracuse Pulse the following week which set up yet another rematch between CFC and the Stars. This time, a tie would not be possible. The Stars traveled to Chattanooga as CFC hosted the city’s first ever semifinal in pro soccer on October 30. Nearly 3,300 fans made their way to Finley Stadium on a cloudy, drizzly Sunday afternoon. CFC dominated nearly every statistic of the match, with 42 attacks to 28 by Michigan and a 61% advantage on possession. CFC passed the ball 427 times to 258 for Michigan. But the difference would be a set piece in the 56’ when a corner kick found the head of 6’4” Bosnian Leon Maric. CFC goalkeeper Kevin Gonzlaez got a finger on the ball but it slipped right into the upper corner. It would prove to be a game of inches as CFC had the chance to equalize but a shot was cleared within inches of the line by a Stars defender. With the one-goal advantage, the Stars held on for dear life and did enough to keep CFC from scoring. As minutes clicked and several Stars fell to the ground, the referee added 9 minutes of extra time. That still would not be enough as CFC’s historic season ended in the rain.
The 2022 season saw Chattanooga FC advance in the US Open Cup to become the first Chattanooga team in any sport to play a competitive game against the top division of its sport, by earning the right to face Atlanta United. Nearly 40,000 people (first-timers and returners) watched a soccer match at Finley Stadium over the course of the season. Coach Rod Underwood and the rest of the staff are busy making plans for the 2023 season. To ensure your favorite seat for the 2023 season, Annual Passes are on sale now. The CFC Club Pass is the best value and grants you the same seat to every CFC Men and CFC Women home. Visit ChattanoogaFC.com for more information.