Asheville City SC scored a late goal but it wasn’t enough to stop Chattanooga FC from walking away with the keg and a 2-1 victory.
Coming into the match tied 1-1 in aggregate, Asheville City would either have to hold the visitors to a scoreless draw or come away victorious. However, it was obvious early that Chattanooga wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a win.
The visitors got the first real chance at goal in the 4th minute, forcing goalkeeper Parker Siegfried to make an early save. Asheville City decided that shot was too close for comfort and got to work on the attacking end. Manny Perez sailed down the right wing and lasered a cross into the box in the 15th minute, but the only person there to meet it was the Chattanooga keeper.
As the first half carried on, Chattanooga strung some solid runs together, but the Asheville City defense was always there to block or deflect the shots.
In the 38th minute, the Blues got their best look at goal when Dominic Boland found Elma N’For in the box on a cross, but N’For’s shot hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced out.
Chattanooga immediately cleared the ball, forced an Asheville City turnover, and Felipe Oliveira promptly found the back of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Though the Blues had more chances to score in the first half, they found themselves in need of two second-half goals in order to win the keg.
Asheville City came out of the half determined but sloppy as Chattanooga carved up the defense and found Charlie Clark for an easy tap in in the 61st minute, his second goal against the Blues this season.
Asheville City now found itself in a serious hole, needing two goals to draw and three to win the keg. Trying to establish some offensive momentum, Cameron Saul subbed on in the 64th minute and his pace slowly gave Chattanooga fits.
It wasn’t until the 79th minute that the Blues got another good look at goal when Saul’s shot inside the box was saved. Not phased, Saul responded a minute later with a goal from almost the exact same spot, and the sellout crowd of 2,500 roared to life.
Momentum had swung in Asheville City’s favor, and they looked to take advantage of Chattanooga’s panicked defense. In the 83rd minute, Perez sent a perfect cross to N’For’s feet for what surely seemed to be the equalizer, but a Chattanooga defender got just enough on it to keep it from tying the match.
The Blues pressed on toward goal for another 10 minutes, but they just couldn’t find the equalizer as the match ended 2-1. While it was a tough loss to swallow, Asheville City never quit and made Chattanooga earn the victory.
Asheville City will take the rest of the week off before making its second trip to Tennessee this season to take on the Emerald Force in Knoxville next Saturday.
Contributor: Alex McLoughlin/Asheville City SC
Photo Credit: Shane Burke