Chattanooga FC salvaged a 1-1 draw against Club de Lyon on Saturday night as a free kick equalizer by Markus Naglestad in the 90th minute sent 2,611 fans into a frenzy at Finley Stadium.
The goal was just what the team needed to turn around an otherwise frustrating night on the pitch.
The boys in blue entered the match on the back of a three-week break from league play.
Club de Lyon had visited Chattanooga once before, falling just short in a 3-2 thriller that saw Chattanooga FC win the 2022 NISA Independent Cup.
However, it was a much different Club de Lyon side visiting Fort Finley, and a team in good form.
Head coach Rod Underwood surprised no one with his team selection as he picked the same eleven that has been dominating NISA this season.
The visitors tried to mix things up, employing a very high press to challenge Chattanooga’s possession hungry style. This almost paid dividends early in the match, with CFC having some nervous moments as they passed around in the back.
After surviving a few early scares, the boys in blue started to break down the press and get possession further up the field. Chattanooga had a slew of chances between the 15th and 30th minutes, but the Club de Lyon players were always quick to throw a body in front of each shot and the keeper was never truly tested.
“We were threatening but we weren’t dangerous,” head coach Rod Underwood reflected after the game. “And now we have to take that threatening to dangerous.”
Coach Underwood likely used a few minutes at halftime to tell his team to stop taking chances at the back and utilize the long ball. Much more play in the second half involved long balls forward and direct play from CFC’s pacey wingers.
Unfortunately for the home side, it was Club de Lyon that scored first.
CFC goalkeeper Jean Antoine was unable to hold onto a free kick and a crashing CDL player bundled the ball over the line in a melee of bodies. Chattanooga had half an hour to preserve their unbeaten status as they trailed 1-0 in the 63rd minute.
The additions of Damian Rodriguez, Luis Garcia Sosa, and Lenny Lopez Jr added some momentum to the attack as Chattanooga pushed for an equalizer. Club de Lyon would have prepared for this situation and effectively prevented many clear-cut chances until the dying minutes.
Great individual skill from Lopez created the best chance of the night in the 87th minute, but the keeper saved from a tight angle. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights in Chattanooga.
The crowd perked up when Chattanooga won a free kick just outside the box in stoppage time.
The 2022 golden ball, 2022 golden boot, 2023 leading goalscorer, and Saturday’s man of the match Markus Naglestad stood over the ball, hoping to make another magic moment for CFC. He did not disappoint, showing impressive skill to hit the ball over the wall with enough dip to beat the keeper in the bottom corner. Naglestad saved the day and Chattanooga’s undefeated status stayed intact.
“I thought it looked good coming off my foot, and I was hoping and praying that he wasn’t going to get there.” Naglestad recalled the magic moment after the game. “But I did strike it really well and I was really happy to see it hit the net.”
Antoine had a chance to rectify his earlier and uncharacteristic mistake as he made a smart save with the last touch of the game. The referee brought proceedings to a close with the teams all square, 1-1.
With the point, Chattanooga FC sits eight points clear at the top of the NISA table. The team will hope to return to winning ways as soon as possible.
“It wasn’t a performance up to our standards.” Naglestad stated after the game. “At home we want to win every game and I think we let ourselves down a bit today… We have a good week of practice next week to bounce back next Saturday and go for winning the game because that’s our ambition.”
Chattanooga FC returns to Finley Stadium Saturday, July 1st, as the club hosts another doubleheader featuring the women’s side facing off against Soda City FC from Columbia, SC before the boys in blue take on the LA Force. One ticket is good for both games.
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.