Chattanooga Football Club put on a show Saturday night in front of 3,781 enthusiastic fans there to honor club legend Juan Hernandez on his testimonial game.
Hernandez, who announced his retirement from playing earlier this year, is the club's all-time assist leader and finished with 127 matches in 8 seasons for CFC.
The midfielder from Madrid, Spain stayed loyal to the club during its transition to pro following the 2018 season.
For his final match, Hernandez requested to play another club close to his heart and one at which he used to coach and play. CFC hosted Pumas FC from Paducah, Kentucky and agreed to donate $1,000 for every 500 tickets sold to the CFC Academy.
Before the game started, the club played a video that showcased Hernandez's voice in a letter to the fans followed by the National Anthem of Spain as well as the American National Anthem.
"Everything was going through my mind," Hernandez said. "I knew I was going to get emotional, but I was expecting it to be later on. That was it."
As they have done all season, the CFC offense was dominant even though Head Coach Rod Underwood put in a heavily rotated starting lineup for this friendly against a UPSL side. Backup goalkeeper Jon Burke, rookie from Drake University, would get the start and keep the clean sheet.
Rookie Lenny Lopez, from Iona University, was unstoppable. As the fans sang for #10 Juan Hernandez in the 10th minute, Lopez scored to give CFC the 1-0 lead. Lopez would add another in the 27th minute to enter halftime 2-0 in favor of the home side.
Instead of heading to the home locker room, Hernandez would change into a Pumas FC uniform to play the second half for his previous club. He wore the captain's arm band for them as well.
Although Hernandez was not able to get one final assist or goal, it was not for lack of trying. Teammates for both sides were looking to feed Hernandez the ball. But in showing respect to the game, the defense made sure there would be no uncontested goals on this night.
CFC's Lopez would get his hat trick in the 50th minute and his night would end in the 64th minute.
As if there would be any break for the Pumas FC defense, Coach Underwood subbed leading scorer Markus Naglestad in for Lopez.
Naglestad curled a shot toward the right corner just three minutes later, which sailed just wide to force a diving save by the battered goalkeeper. The reprieve would not last long and Naglestad would join the party by scoring from about 12 yards out in the 72nd minute.
Hernandez left the game for Pumas FC in the 75th minute to a standing ovation by the Finley faithful.
Dalton native Fabian Rodriguez, brother of teammate Damian, would score his first goal in Finley Stadium in the 77th minute.
The crowd began to chant, "We want Juan! We want Juan!"
Little to their knowledge, he was already in the locker room changing into a CFC uniform one last time.
As he excited the locker room, Naglestad put in his second goal for the night to secure his brace and the 6-0 lead for CFC.
The crowd was whipped into a frenzy when they spotted Hernandez exit the dressing room in a CFC uniform and he subbed in right after the Naglestad goal.
Near the final whistle, Hernandez whipped a ball in from the right side of the box that was perfectly placed for Naglestad's head. But the post would prevent the hero from getting one more assist.
That didn't stop the celebration as his entire team threw the legend into the air over and over while the fans chanted and danced for their beloved captain.
"It was really special. I'm thankful for what the club has done for me over the years. The community has been supportive of the club and myself. I mean, what better way to leave a field than this one, right?"
Hernandez added, "This is a dream and I completed it, so I'm just thankful for the club and for the city."
It took Hernandez more than 30 minutes to make his way down the line of adoring fans hanging over the edge of the stadium wall, where he made his way to an autograph area.
Hernandez stayed until every single autograph was signed and every selfie request was fulfilled.
No one wanted the night to end. Not even Juan Hernandez.
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.