Chattanooga FC earned a hard fought 1-1 draw against NPSL national finalists Apotheos FC on Thursday night.
Norwegian striker Markus Naglestad scored early in the second half for CFC to stave off the physical visiting side.
The boys in blue took a break from league action to take on the visitors from Kennesaw, GA. Apotheos FC promised to present a challenge after making it all the way to the NPSL playoff finals, ultimately losing to FC Tulsa in penalty kicks.
Head coach Rod Underwood only made a few changes to the eleven that drew with Salt City Union over the weekend. Jesus Ibarra and Mutaya Mwape started on either side of CFC all-time top goalscorer Markus Naglestad. Captain Richard Dixon anchored the midfield with Alex McGrath and Luis Garcia-Sosa. Colin Stripling and Jungwoo So filled in at fullback on either side of centerback pairing Sebastian Capozucchi and Anatolie Prepelita. Jon Burke deputized between the sticks to round out a strong starting eleven.
As the match opened, it was apparent which side was the professional outfit. Chattanooga FC quickly established dominance in the flow of play, but a well-drilled, physical defense prevented clear chances for the hosts.
Naglestad had some of the best chances of the match. He first tested the keeper in the 7th minute as his free kick was tipped wide.
Apotheos defender Ebrima Dampha picked up a yellow card for off-the-ball misconduct in the 14th minute. He threw a forearm at Naglestad after a whistle. This would prove crucial later.
The defensive mentality of the visitors paid dividends in the 16th minute. A swift counterattack found an Apotheos attacker running behind the Chattanooga defense, and not wanting to concede a penalty, the defenders were unable to prevent a shot that went low and past Burke in goal.
Chattanooga pinned in the visitors after the goal. Naglestad came close to scoring again in the 36th minute, hitting a low shot off the post.
Visiting captain Ebrima Dampha earned an early shower in the 40th minute. Dampha tripped a surging Jesus Ibarra, denying a goalscoring chance and earning a second yellow. Apotheos played the rest of the match with ten men while Dampha stood in bluejeans outside the visitors locker room.
The score remained 1-0 through halftime, with both coaches having plenty to say to their teams at the interval.
It took less than a minute for Chattanooga to draw level after the break. After great interplay between Jesus Ibarra and Colin Stripling, the ball made its way to Markus Naglestad at the top of the box. The striker struck the ball low and hard, megging a defender and beating the keeper to draw the score level. It was 1-1 with most of the half to play.
The remainder of the match saw largely one-way traffic in favor of the boys in blue. Mutaya Mwape, Jesus Ibarra, and Markus Naglestad all came tantalizingly close to scoring a winner.
The visitors made life rough for the boys in blue, staying compact and physical. One would struggle to decipher that the game was a friendly for the intensity of the visitors.
One of the coaches even earned himself a red card in the 72nd minute. He was able to join his captain and both did everything they could to continue giving encouragement and instruction to remaining players.
Ultimately, there was to be no decisive moment as the final whistle confirmed a 1-1 draw.
Markus Naglestad earned man of the match honors. His equalizing goal was a result of his constant movement and effort to both spearhead the Chattanooga press and create numerous chances in attack. Barring the goal conceded, the boys in blue had control of the game and deserve credit for seeing off one of the best NPSL sides in the nation.
Head coach Rod Underwood wasn’t too concerned about the result, acknowledging that the game was just needed to keep the players in match shape. “Of course, we want to win, but it was never about the result… We’re not looking into the result, we just needed to get the game in.”
Results will be paramount as Chattanooga FC return to league action on Sunday, September 3rd. The boys in blue host the Los Angeles Force, a team in the hunt for a NISA playoff first round bye.
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.