All it was going to take was one — a big shot or a big save — Saturday evening.
Greg Hartley gave the Chattanooga Football Club two of “one”.
Hartley saved a shot in the shootout, then followed that up shortly after with the final kick to give CFC a 5-3 shootout win in the National Premier Soccer League South regional final at Finley Stadium.
With the win, CFC (15-2-2) advances to the national semifinals, where they will face the winner of the West Region final between Albion SC Pros and Sonoma County Sol on July 30.
Miami played almost half of the match with ten players after a red card was issued early in the second half, and as a result played for a shootout. They slowed the game down and took every opportunity they could to throw off the rhythm of the Southeast Conference champions.
“We came to play offensively like we did all season, but with the red card, we had to understand the game play more tactically,” Miami United head coach Ricardo Paez said. “We went to PKs, but we didn’t have luck.
“I think it was a great game. I think the winner of tonight’s game will be the favorite to win the national title.”
Miami (11-2) got their wish, eventually getting to the shootout despite CFC having numerous opportunities to score, including a missed penalty kick by Kieran Bywater at the end of the first overtime that would have given the home team a 1-0 lead.
Miami nearly scored in the second overtime, with forward Juan Bazan Riascos hitting a shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and angled directly downward.
In the shootout, CFC went 5-for-5, with Jose Ferraz, Sindre Welo, Will Roberts, Jon Finlay and Hartley connecting on shots. Hartley also stopped a shot in the second round of kicks.
“Our message was to keep attacking, and don’t panic,” CFC head coach Bill Elliott said. “At the end of the day we know we’ve got Greg, so we couldn’t panic, get caught up in the delay and the tactics, but it was tough. We had a big crowd, it was an emotional night, a big challenge to keep our composure.”
The team’s composure was tested throughout the match as well as after, as a member of the physical Miami club threw a punch at a CFC player shortly after Hartley’s kick. Officials from both clubs, as well as Chattanooga police officers broke up the melee before it got too out of hand.
It was Hartley’s first shootout of the season. He was absent when CFC defeated Reading United A.C. in the U.S. Open Cup second round, with Tom Halsall being credited with the win.
“I had a dream earlier this week that this would be the shootout we finally lose, because we’ve won so many,” Hartley said. “We didn’t save as many as I thought we would, but credit the guys. Credit to Miami, they can play, but we worked hard.
“We looked a little tired, but the subs came on and did unbelievable. I’m happy we’ve won, it’s a great feeling.”