PREVIEW: CHATTANOOGA FC (HOME) VS. DUTCH LIONS FC NPSL (AWAY)
Saturday’s match between Chattanooga FC and Dutch Lions FC NPSL is going to be a clash of the titans, a game to be remembered.
Chattanooga had an incredible regular season, finishing with a 9-0-1 record and a first-place finish in the Southeast Conference. The conference title would be their sixth in club history, an amazing feat considering that they play in an ultracompetitive conference.
CFC outscored their opponents 21-3 thanks to a potent attack and one of the country’s top defenses.
Forward Luke Winter was the team’s leading scorer with six goals and one assist. He proved to be Mr. Dependable with five game-winning goals in 2016, continuing his fine form through the start of the playoffs. Winter did, after all, have game-winners against both Knoxville and Memphis last week. Calling him a prolific playmaker is a bit of an understatement, considering he holds the U.S. Open Cup record for most goals by an NPSL player. He’s explosive and should be a player to watch for in the CFC attack.
Chattanooga may have the best 1-2 punch at goalkeeper in the entire league. Hartley, a two-time NPSL Golden Gloves honoree, allowed just two goals in league play for a 0.29 GAA. When Hartley went down with injury, Tom Halsall filled in admirably and kept the undefeated streak alive. The goalkeepers are protected by the region’s top backline, a group led by defender Jake Young.
Dutch Lions FC are new to the NPSL, but have made plenty of waves this season. They finished second in the massive South Central Conference, the NPSL’s biggest with 11 teams. They scored an incredible 36 goals and easily made it into the playoffs with a 10-1-2 record.
This is a team that beat two playoff opponents in a convincing fashion, beating FC Wichita 5-2 and Tulsa Athletics 2-1. Wichita is the defending conference champions, while Tulsa had one of the top offenses and a first-place finish in the regular season.
Fans and supporters should watch for forward Carlos Acevedo, defender Lars Willemse, and goalkeeper Matthew Gutierrez. Acevedo led the team with nine goals, while Willemse proved to be a major asset on both sides of the ball. Gutierrez was lights out between the posts, finishing the regular season with 41 saves, a 1.08 GAA, and four clean sheets.
The winner of this match will move on to face the winner of the match between the Atlanta Silverbacks and Miami United FC.