CHATTANOOGA FC CROWNED SOUTH REGION CHAMPIONS
Chattanooga FC beat the Tulsa Athletics 2-0 in the NPSL South Region Finals Saturday night at Finley Stadium in front of over 2,800 fans.
“I’m just happy for these players,” Chattanooga FC head coach Bill Elliott said after the win. “I’m excited, it a being a big game and winning it at home, we’re so happy for the fans and the players.”
Chattanooga goal scorers on the night were Luis Trude (4’) and Luke Winter (78’).
With the win, Chattanooga advances to represent the South Region in the National Premier Soccer League National Semifinals (time, date and location to be determined).
Just four minutes in, Chattanooga got on the board, as they scored on a counter. Luis Trude broke down the left wing, and on the break put the ball into the right corner of the net. Tulsa goalie Ben LaCourse had no chance and CFC claimed the 1-0 lead.
“It was early in the game and we were still fresh,” the Brazilian exclaimed of his goal. “The defender gave me some space, Luke helped open the other defender, and I completed my shot. It feels good to get that first goal quickly.”
The counter attack was the big key for CFC as they scored both goals in that fashion.
“We thought that as good as (Tulsa) are, their one possible weakness that they had was that they were a little slow to cover defensively, so we thought we could catch them on the break.”
That first goal was a great start, but Elliot was aware that it was unnerving, too.
“If you look at the big matches in the World Cup, teams that scored first, they were on their heels the rest of the match, but we’ve talked several times over the past couple of weeks in the locker room that if we do and get that goal, its not enough, we’ve got to push for two and three.”
Tulsa thought that they had the equalizer just a few minutes later, when the cross from in from Damien Thomas bounced into the net. The linesman’s flag did not go up, but the center referee called for a handball, as the ball bounced off a forward’s arm.
“They’re the best that we’ve seen so far,” Elliott said. “If I’m honest, they may have out played us a little tonight, but it’s not what you do 18 to 18, it’s what you do inside those 18 yard boxes. That’s where we were successful tonight.”
These two clubs met last year in the Regional Semifinals, where it took penalties to decide the match, as Chattanooga went on to the Regional Finals. After the win, Chattanooga lost 1-0 to eventual NPSL Champions, RVA Football Club.
Despite the numerous chances by the Athletics, Chattanooga were prepared to sit back and continually play the long ball game, as both clubs entered the locker rooms at the half with Chattanooga leading 1-0.
Tulsa came out of the gate looking for the equalizer, but Chattanooga goalkeeper Greg Hartley was equal to the task, keeping Tulsa off the board.
“All the success comes from us being a family,” CFC’s Hartley noted. “We never say we are on our top form, because we know that we can get better and this weekend we learned of more things we can work on.”
The game was settled in the 79th minute when Winter was fed an excellent ball from Chris Ochieng. As Tulsa settled into the attacking half looking for the equalizer, Ochieng was able to send a thirty yard pass to a streaking Winter down the far right side. Winter made his run, lined up the shot and gave the goalie no play and insured CFC into the next round.
“Sitting around up one goal against a talented team like Tulsa is asking for trouble,” the coach added.
Just the night before, Chattanooga FC beat Miami United FC 2-0 and the Athletics came from 2-0 down to beat Upward Stars 4-2. For the last ten minutes, CFC was able to continue their scrappy defending, clearing Tulsa’s chance after chance. It is the third consecutive shutout for CFC, all coming in the playoffs.