Chattanooga FC picked up a third win in eight days with a 1-0 win over Maryland Bobcats FC. A stunning free kick from Markus Naglestad was all that separated the two sides as 3,268 fans watched on at Fort Finley on Saturday night.
The boys in blue came into the match in good form, having beaten Albion San Diego at home and Flower City Union on the road in the previous two matches. The Maryland Bobcats visited Fort Finley on the back of their first league defeat of the season against the Michigan Stars.
Head coach Rod Underwood opted to field the same eleven that beat Albion on Wednesday, trusting his players to overcome any fatigue and to continue performing at a top level.
The first half didn’t yield much action at either goal. Both teams kept plenty of men behind the ball, making sure not to concede ahead of looking for an opening goal. Play from both sides was easy on the eye, akin to watching a twenty-two-man game of chess.
The biggest chance of the half fell to the Bobcats with a ball over the top beating the Chattanooga defense, but Jean Antoine smothered the chance. The teams went back to the locker rooms all square.
Proceedings began to heat up in the second half, in physicality and chance creation. Chattanooga possession began to yield dangerous attacks.
In the 61st minute, Richard Dixon got taken down just outside the penalty area, earning a free kick inside the arch. League-leading goalscorer Markus Naglestad stepped up to take the kick. Most professionals find it difficult to get the ball over the wall and back down from so close, but Naglestad made it look easy as he struck the ball over the wall and into the net to open the scoring.
Down a goal, the Bobcats had to open up play, and chances started to appear on either end. Jean Antione had an excellent game controlling his area. Maryland keeper Sutton also dispelled a few big chances, including a double save from another Naglestad free kick and Mwape follow up.
Things got dicey and challenges went flying as the teams fought hard. Maryland player James Filerman took things too far in the 83rd minute, earning a second yellow for a rough challenge on Beto Alvarenga.
With a goal advantage and man advantage, the boys in blue saw out the game, winning 1-0.
“We knew it was going to be tough, our third game in eight days against a physical team. They want to stay close to us in the table, we want to get as far away as we can. So, we knew it would be tough,” head coach Rod Underwood commented after the game.
“They had a good game plan, giving credit where credit is due. We made a couple of slight adjustments and it worked. At the end of the day, Nags made a big play, and big players are going to make a big play no matter the game plan.”
Big player Markus Naglestad earned the fans’ vote as player of the match. In addition to providing the decisive moment of the match, Naglestad put in a hard shift of high pressing out of possession and physical hold up play in possession. Other notable players included Jean Antoine, who kept his seventh clean sheet of the season, and Richard Dixon, who was in the middle of a very physical midfield battle.
The result sees Chattanooga FC broaden the gap at the top of the NISA table to 11 points over the second placed Bobcats, albeit with three more games played. The boys in blue will have a chance to extend the lead further as they head up to Maryland next Saturday, June 3rd to take on the Bobcats again.
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.