Chattanooga FC defeated a resilient Flower City Union side with a 1-0 win in front of 3,013 fans on Saturday night. In a match of few chances, captain Richard Dixon converted his second half penalty kick to secure three points for the boys in blue.
The hometown Chattanooga Football Club was in fine form entering the match, winning the first two league fixtures by a margin of 8-0 and advancing in the U.S. Open Cup with a 4-1 win over the Des Moines Menace. Flower City Union also advanced in the Cup but suffered defeat on opening weekend against the Maryland Bobcats.
Before the game, NISA commissioner John Prutch presented the 2022 season awards, all going to members of Chattanooga FC. Markus Naglestad earned the Golden Boot for most goals scored as well as the Golden Ball after being voted the league’s best player. Jean Antoine earned the Golden Glove for his goalkeeping heroics at California United Strikers last season, conceding only five goals in sixteen appearances. Rod Underwood earned Coach of the Year for his leadership of CFC last season.
Coach Underwood made two changes to the eleven that scored five against Albion San Diego last time out. Juan Louis started at the striker position, giving Markus Naglestad his first break in the league in almost a year. Colin Stripling returned to the starting eleven in place of Jungwoo So at right back.
The first half bore little fruit in terms of chances. Chattanooga employed a high press but did not have the same joy as they did against Albion San Diego. Flower City was careful to always have plenty of players back, not allowing space for the boys in blue to create scoring chances. With only six shots in the half, the end product was generally missing from both teams. It was a physical affair, with both Juan Louis and Alex McGrath earning yellows in the first half for hard challenges. The score remained in a deadlock at halftime.
Chattanooga needed something special to break down the Flower City defense in the second half. Taylor Gray and Damian Rodriguez both looked incredibly dangerous on the wings, and it was ultimately Taylor Gray that earned the moment that was needed. Gray was taken down in the box after some skillful dribbling, earning a penalty kick. Up stepped captain and man of the match Richard Dixon. Dixon picked his spot, beating the keeper to the right and putting the boys in blue ahead 1-0.
“You pick your spot and put a hard pass there,” Dixon said as he described the moment after the game. “I knew where I was going and nothing was going to change my mind.”
Just as before the penalty, there were few clear chances for the rest of the game. Lenny Lopez, Beto Alvarenga, and Mutaya Mwape all subbed in as reinforcements to withstand the increased pressure from the trailing visitors. However, the pressure amounted to nothing and the boys in blue saw out the game rather comfortably, reaching a final score of 1-0.
Captain Richard Dixon spoke more about the challenges that Chattanooga will have to face at Finley Stadium for the rest of the season. “It was a tough game; they were a good team. We kind of struggled a bit to do the things we’re good at and the things we want to do… Every game is going to be a little harder for us because the more data that teams have on us, the more they can prepare... It forces us to be better, to be able to come up with creative ideas and to come up with new things to get around what teams prepare for.”
Coach Rod Underwood also knows that no league match will be easy for the boys in blue. “We’re the big team everyone wants to come after… We made some adjustments in the Albion game; we made a little bit of adjustment in this game. So, we’ll keep tweaking it because you know there’s no secrets in soccer.”
Colin Stripling returned to the starting lineup for the first time this season and voiced his gratitude for the support in the Scenic City.
“Coming here, playing at Finley is always great," he said. "We always want to get a result for the fans and for the city.”
The boys in blue will head down I-59 on Wednesday, April 26th to take on the Birmingham Legion in Tuscaloosa after earning a third-round berth in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for a second year in a row.
League action resumes on the 29th as Chattanooga heads to Michigan to take on the Michigan Stars.
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.