The difference between the Chattanooga Football Club and the Chicago Fire of the Premier Development League in Saturday’s Hank Steinbrecher Cup championship match came down to two heads — those belonging to the Fire’s Mark Segbers and CFC’s Greg Hartley.
On Saturday, the advantage went to Segbers.
The quick Fire forward scored both goals, including the game-winning header in overtime, as the PDL team held off CFC 2-1 for their first amateur national championship in front of 3,439 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
The CFC loss prevented the club from back-to-back Steinbrecher Cup championships.
His second goal came in the 108th minute. CFC then pushed numbers up in hopes of creating the equalizer, but came up just short. They did create some opportunities, none better than a late corner kick. Hartley serves as the CFC goalkeeper, but was in on the corner and his header glanced off the crossbar.
“This was a wonderful experience for our young players,” Fire coach Logan Pause said. “There are times you have to roll up your sleeves and survive, and we did that. We squeezed out a win.
“It was a fantastic job by our players, but a really wonderful game.”
Each team created opportunities throughout the match. The Fire struck first, with Segbers finishing a cross from Elliot Collier in the 22nd minute. CFC thought they had evened the match up before the half on a goal by Luke Winter, but he was whistled for being offsides prior to the ball crossing the plane.
The Fire took their 1-0 lead into the half, but it was short-lived as Winter finished off a nice cross three minutes into the second half.
The defenses then took over. The Fire’s Andrew Gutman had three opportunities right in front of the goal, but was unable to convert. CFC’s Samuel Goni had the keeper out of the box, but his chip just sailed wide left of the net.
CFC’s Jon Finlay had a non-keeper save when Hartley was on the ground and unable to recover.
Segbers ended drought, slightly getting a header on a corner kick and bouncing the ball past Hartley.
“We created chances tonight to score that normally end up in the back of the net,” CFC head coach Bill Elliott said. “The goalkeeper, the field players cleared two or three off the line and that was the difference. Usually when we create those, they end up in the back of the net.
“On their second goal, the ball bounced around kind of awkward and ended up in the back of the net which is a bit unlucky, but when the chances come, you’ve gotta take them. If you don’t, it’ll come back to bite you and that’s what happened to us tonight.”