Playing without starting goalkeeper Greg Hartley, the Chattanooga side received two goals from Luke Winter and a solid effort from the defense and goalkeeper Chris Baker in improving to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in NPSL play.
The Jesters fell to 0-2-1 on the early part of the season. Their goal was the first allowed by CFC against a NPSL opponent — the other two were in U.S. Open Cup play, against the Ocala Stampede of the Premier Development League and the Wilmington Hammerheads of the United Soccer League (USL).
Winter’s two goals — in the ninth and 33rd minutes — were his fourth and fifth of the season. The first came off an assist by Luis Trude, the second from Leo De Smedt.
“They’re one of the top teams in the conference,” Winter said. “We didn’t play amazing, but we dominated them for most of the game. We’re just trying to build it up like last year and get better and better.
“The playoffs is when it counts.”
Both teams had opportunities in the first half — the Jesters to close the gap, CFC to extend it. The Jesters continued to follow their gameplan of trying to counterattack, with Phillip Borde and Tony Judice applying pressure to the CFC defense. CFC continued to attack, with Trude, Winter, De Smedt, Jose Ferraz, and Irvin Espinal creating chances.
“We came off a 10-hour bus ride to Wilmington on Wednesday, played a professional team for 120 minutes, then made a 10-hour ride back,” CFC coach Bill Elliott said. “We just hoped to make it through tonight. It wasn’t our best performance, but it was enough to get the job done. The boys showed heart and character despite sore muscles, aches and pains. We had chances to put the match out of reach at halftime, and in the second half we had a couple of good chances, but New Orleans had some good defending — desperate defending, but good.
“We have to get better at finishing or it will come back to haunt us later in the season.”
Still the score remained 2-0 until the 77th minute, when a ball bouncing around the box was slotted by New Orleans’ Noel Johnson, who suffered a knee injury on the play. It cut the CFC lead in half, but before the Jesters had time to celebrate the goal, defender Simon Nett was being issued his second yellow card for what coach Kenny Farrell was told was “unsportsmanlike conduct” when Nett headed the ball back to goalkeeper Liam Davies.
The Jesters’ defense held strong, clearing out a free kick attempt by Winter, and doing the same moments later when Winter had a header attempt that was saved.
In stoppage time, CFC scored the clincher when Chris Ochieng put away a cross from Samuel Goni.
Saturday began a string of four tough matches in eight days for CFC. They face the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League on Wednesday before hosting the Steinbrecher Cup next weekend.
The Jesters travel to Knoxville to take on the Force on Thursday before finishing their three-game Tennessee road trip with a match against Nashville FC on Saturday.
“We didn’t weather the storm,” Farrell said. “We always knew we would open the game up, and in the second half I felt we were the better team. We score to cut the match to 2-1, and I felt we were in control of the game and could tie it at 2-2 and see what happens because the momentum was there. Chattanooga was starting to struggle and they were getting a little frantic, and they were given a gift.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a tie because I thought we deserved one. Chattanooga is a very good team and they execute their game plan. It’s predictable, but they execute it.”