Chattanooga FC celebrated fan appreciation night with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Force at Fort Finley. 3,537 fans witnessed the Sunday night masterclass as a first half Alex McGrath brace and Mutaya Mwape insurance goal sealed another three points for the undefeated boys in blue.
The message for the visiting Force was simple: earn a point to go second on the NISA table. That would be a tall task against league leading Chattanooga FC, the only undefeated football club in the nation. Having already clinched a playoff spot, Chattanooga was in search of more points to secure the top spot in the league.
Head coach Rod Underwood made three changes to the eleven that played in a hard-fought exhibition match ten days prior. Jungwoo So and Ayden Bowers entered the eleven in the defense while Jean Antoine returned between the sticks to complete a strong eleven.
It was clear from the start that the boys in blue wanted to rectify recent results, having been held to two consecutive draws at Fort Finley. The attacking intent displayed by the home team would soon overwhelm the visitors.
Man of the match Alex McGrath opened the scoring in the 7th minute. After Chattanooga picked off the ball in midfield, McGrath surged forward with Luis Garcia Sosa on his right. McGrath passed the ball out to Garcia Sosa, who cut inside, drawing defenders with him. A perfectly timed pass met the perfectly timed run of McGrath, who found himself one on one with the keeper. McGrath converted from close range, putting the home team ahead 1-0.
“[Coach Underwood] always encourages me to be wherever I can, still within the foundation of what we’re trying to do," said McGrath.
"But it is nice to have that freedom to be box to box… when I’m getting in and around the box it’s nice to put away the chances when I get them.”
The visiting Force began to grow into the game as they went in search of an equalizer. With more men forward, the Force were susceptible to suffer on the counter.
McGrath got on the scoresheet again at the end of a clinical counterattack in the 44th minute. Anatolie Prepelita’s clearance fell to Jesus Ibarra, who beat two defenders and picked out the surging run of Alex McGrath. McGrath carried the ball 30 yards before striking it low and hard to beat the keeper at the far post. The boys in blue took a 2-0 lead to halftime.
Despite having a two-goal advantage, the game was all but finished for the boys in blue. They continued pushing for another goal and found it in the 63rd minute. Workhorse Alex McGrath ran 50 yards to save what everyone else on the pitch considered a dead ball on the touchline. Squaring the ball back, a deft touch from Markus Naglestad directed the ball to Mutaya Mwape. After taking a touch at the top of the penalty arch, Mwape struck the ball cleanly into the top left corner. Chattanooga was ahead 3-0.
The Force found a consolation goal in the 74th minute. Jean Antoine saved a low shot from 20 yards out but was unable to prevent LA’s Moja Hale from poaching the follow-up. It was 3-1 with a quarter of an hour left to play.
Chattanooga played out the rest of the match in professional fashion, and the three points were never in doubt. All three points would stay with undefeated league leaders Chattanooga FC.
After scoring twice and creating a third, Alex McGrath was the obvious choice for man of the match. The English midfielder’s incredible work rate did not go unnoticed and paid dividends on the night. “I’m obviously happy with the win to start with, and it’s always nice to be on the scoresheet, especially twice. It’s a good night.”
Chattanooga FC now sits 12 points clear at the top of the table with only 7 games remaining, inching closer to confirming the number one spot. Both squads will have a quick turnaround as they head to Los Angeles for a midweek rematch.
The boys in blue return to Fort Finley on Sunday, October 1for the regular season finale vs the same team it began the season with: Gold Star FC Detroit.
Tickets are available now at ChattanoogaFC.com/tickets.
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.