Chattanooga FC Women overcame a 2-goal deficit late in the second half to draw 2-2 with defending national semifinalists Nashville Rhythm in an exciting home opener on Saturday.
This game marks the first 2023 game of the season for both teams, with Nashville defending their Southeastern Conference and Southern Conference championships.
Under wet conditions in the first half, Chattanooga worked to bring pressure from the wings on offense. A solid Chattanooga defense worked to shut down Nashville attempts, including a deflected free kick at the ninth minute and big save by goalkeeper Caroline Johnson at the 23rd minute.
Momentum continued to swing in both directions until Nashville broke the Chattanooga defense in the 35th minute, taking the lead 1-0.
Chattanooga stayed composed after conceding the goal, seeing several more fine saves by Johnson before halftime.
The rain intensified in the second half as Chattanooga continued their stalwart defense.
A corner by Nashville in the 52nd minute was breezily caught by Johnson. The Chattanooga defense continued to respond efficiently to the pressure, denying another shot in the 55th minute.
A turnover deep in Chattanooga territory led to a Nashville penalty, which they converted to make it 2-0.
Chattanooga regained their focus, with CFC midfielder Nadiia Ivanchenko nearly scoring from a free kick at the 64th minute.
A series of well-worked passes led to a snappy goal by striker Kailey Burrell in the 80th minute, pulling one back for Chattanooga.
"I saw Summer (Hernandez) making a run and I sent it back to her," said Burrell after the game. "I look up and I'm splitting the defenders and Summer just gave me a perfect slotted ball. So I'm like 'I have to finish it.' It was a perfect ball from Summer so she made it easy for me."
Johnson continued to deal with everything that came her way, with another beautiful save in the 86th minute.
Building the momentum, Chattanooga continued to put Nashville under pressure, finally getting a breakthrough when forward Krysan St. Louis scored off a Brianna Hurtado corner kick for the exciting equalizer.
"It was a good ball in," said St. Louis. "I just timed it really well and just got my leg on it. I just expected the best so it found the back of the net. I was just happy."
The match ended with a 2-2 tie between the two sides, with the decisive comeback by Chattanooga displaying the talent of the new team and previewing what’s to come as this 2023 season unfolds.
"The weather was terrible. But of course the Chattahooligans came through and were loud as always," said Burrell. "A lot of our energy comes from them so it's awesome to see them there time and time again."
"Everyone showed up to work today," said CFC Women's Head Coach Randy Douglas. "No one can deny that. And I'm glad they got something to show for it."
Chattanooga FC will be hosting a double header at Finley Stadium on May 27th against FC Birmingham (W) at 4:30 p.m. and the Maryland Bobcats (M) at 7:30pm. Tickets for that game as well as season tickets are available now at CFCTIX.com.
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.