The Chattanooga Football Club advanced in the NPSL playoffs with a 1-0 victory over Miami Fusion FC in the South Region semifinals at Finley Stadium.
A season-high crowd of 6,143 — most baring American flags and shirts with the hashtag #NoogaStrong in light of the shootings at two military facilities in Chattanooga on Thursday that led to the deaths of five people — saw CFC improve to 15-2-1 on the season, earning a spot in next week’s region championship.
They’ll travel to Myrtle Beach to face the Mutiny (12-1-1), who defeated FC Wichita 3-1 in another semifinal.
Leo De Smedt and Jose Ferraz connected for the match’s only goal in the 14th minute. De Smedt used some fancy footwork on the left wing, driving towards the 18 before sending a cross to Ferraz, who slid in and got a foot on the ball, sending it into the back of the net.
The Fusion (8-2-1) had their share of opportunities, putting relentless pressure on CFC’s defense. In the 28th minute, Miami’s Raphael Carminati had a clean look on a shot attempt from the top of the 18, but goalkeeper Greg Hartley ranged to his right and deflected the low shot away.
With the one-goal advantage, Chattanooga FC didn’t rest. They continued to attack the rest of the match and create opportunities. They gained a man advantage in the 63rd minute when, after a foul for a hard tackle on forward Chris Ochieng, Miami’s Stanley Guirand was shown a red card.
“We really limited their quality chances,” CFC coach Bill Elliott said. “They had a lot of the ball, but didn’t have many quality chances. We kept our discipline and keep working, but Miami is such a good group, that even a man down, they were able to connect passes, keep the ball and make things scary for us.”
Chattanooga has lost their last two road playoff games to the eventual national champions. In 2013, they dropped a 1-0 decision to the RVA Football Club. Last season ended in the NPSL final, with a 3-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls’ U-23 club.
Watching film, making phone calls, and mapping out a strategy to defeat the Mutiny were secondary on the organization’s mind Saturday night, though. Prior to the match, shirts with the hashtag #NoogaStrong were sold, with the proceeds going to a charity to benefit the victims and families affected by the shootings. All military personnel was allowed into the match for free, and poles on the visiting side of the field that normally display flags from different countries had American flags flying at half staff.
“Even though some of our players aren’t from here, we’re aware of what happened,” Ferraz, a third-year member of the club, said. “Our families at home received the new, and for those who passed fighting and defending this country, we’re proud to represent them and send a message to their families. We’re proud of what we’ve done with the community here, and it was a good way to give back to them with a win, to show that we’re Nooga Strong.”