Mwape celebrates his second goal of the day
Chattanooga FC kicked off the NISA season in style with a 3-0 win over Gold Star FC Detroit.
A conservative estimate of 2,756 Chattanoogans watched on as the boys in blue put on a clinical performance in a statement start to the season.
Two goals from Mutaya Mwape and a penalty from Markus Naglestad did the damage on a beautiful Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Months of preparation and anticipation led up to this NISA Game of the Week. Chattanooga had a successful offseason, bringing in several players to bolster the squad, and putting themselves firmly in the conversation of a title challenge before a ball was even kicked.
Inversely, it was the first official match for Gold Star FC Detroit, an expansion side bringing a fresh look to NISA. The expectation was firmly on Chattanooga FC to deliver a result in the match.
Head coach Rod Underwood picked a strong eleven to start Chattanooga’s league campaign.
Last season’s golden boot winner Markus Naglestad led the attack flanked by Taylor Gray and Mutaya Mwape.
Captain Richard Dixon anchored the midfield alongside Alex McGrath and Luis Garcia Sosa. Joseph Perez and Jungwoo So started at fullback, with Ayden Bowers and Anatolie Prepelita at centerback. Deputizing the goal was last season’s golden glove winner Jean Antoine.
On the other side of the ball, Gold Star Detroit opened the season with many fresh faces, but Chattanooga fans welcomed back Roddy Green at forward. Former CFC goalkeeper Alec Reddington also featured on the Gold Star bench.
As the match started, it quickly became apparent which team was going to dominate. The Chattanooga men were hungry for possession, playing patiently on the ball and pressing to win it back quickly. Possession began to turn into chances as the half progressed, and everyone in the stadium knew a goal would come soon.
The boys in blue finally opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
Hard-working Taylor Gray picked the ball up on the left and dribbled around his man to the byline to chip the ball into the middle of the box. Several players threw their bodies at the ball, but it was Mutaya Mwape that got the first touch to tuck a shot inside the post to open the scoring.
“I tried to head the ball but I was scared that I would get hit in the head," said Mwape. "I tried to get out of the way and it hit me on the hips. It counts!”
Chattanooga FC bossed the rest of the first half. The boys in blue pushed numbers forward and created chance after chance. Alex McGrath and Markus Naglestad both hit the post and Taylor Gray had a goal called back for offsides in a swarm of Chattanooga activity that saw Detroit lucky to get to halftime only a goal down.
If anything changed in the second half, it was only that Chattanooga took even more control of the game. It was all one-way traffic as Rod Underwood’s team controlled the game against the visitors.
“I’m a really defensive coach but it’s the offense that helps us not defend very much" said Underwood. "We want to keep the ball, so we press so that we can keep the ball and that’s how we defend.”
The offense was not fruitless as it took just 8 minutes to get another goal.
Mwape played a 1-2 with Taylor Gray and guided a low shot into the far corner to cap off a great CFC move and increase the advantage to 2-0 in the 53rd minute.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, last year’s top goal scorer Markus Naglestad won and converted a penalty with a cool finish in the 63rd minute to bring the score to 3-0.
With the three goal advantage, the boys in blue saw the game out comfortably, completing the ninety minute statement of intent that Chattanooga will be the team to watch this season.
After scoring a brace on his competitive debut, Mwape was the obvious choice as the fans’ man of the match. Mwape voiced his appreciation for the support throughout the match. “It’s always good to give back to them with the win and the three goals!”
CFC goalkeeper Jean Antoine was proud of the performance but knows there’s a lot of work still to be done.
“We don’t win the championship in March, but today is a good step in the right direction… Now we have to focus on Wednesday.”
What’s happening Wednesday? Chattanooga FC heads north to take on Des Moines Menace of USL 2 in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The boys in blue then hit the road again with a visit to Albion San Diego before returning to Fort Finley to host Flower City Union on Saturday, April 22.
About Chattanooga Football Club
Chattanooga Football Club was founded in 2009. The CFC Men's team competes in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), which is in the third division of professional soccer. The CFC Women's team is a summer amateur team that competes in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL). 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. CFC plays all home games in Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.