Its déjà vu all over again for the National Premier Soccer League club that calls the “Scenic City” home.
When Chattanooga FC takes the field Friday night at Finley Stadium against Miami FC, they will be shooting for their second straight year in which they move onto the NPSL Regional Finals.
Last year, after winning the Southeast Conference, Chattanooga FC squeezed their way into the Regional Finals with a 0-0 draw and 3-0 penalty shootout win against Tulsa Athletics (who also play Friday at Finley Stadium in the other Regional). The eventual NPSL Champions, RVA Football Club ended CFC’s year with a 1-0 win, but laid the seeds for a run this year.
“I just feel absolutely blessed to have such a talented group with me,” Chattanooga FC head coach Bill Elliott said of his team’s accomplishments. “Their heads are in the right place, they work hard, and we have so many people that can score goals. We are very difficult to play against.”
Success in 2013’s playoffs have given the Chattahooligans, CFC’s supporters club, excitement since the club reached new heights this season. With that run least year, Chattanooga was able to retain their division lead, but struck a historical win in the US Open Cup.
“As a coach, I’m assembling the team, but we could not attract the players and do the things we do without the organization and board that we have,” the coach added.
By defeating the Wilmington Hammerheads 3-1 in the Second Round of the tournament (thanks to Luke Winter’s pair of goals) it was the first time that a NPSL side beat a professional team, snapping a 0-15-0 streak.
In their way is Miami FC, winners of the Sunshine Conference and have not lost a match since their season kicked off in early May, rolling through their conference with a 7-3-0 record, ending on top of last year’s winners, Jacksonville United FC.
“Preparing for us, I imagine, would be really difficult,” Elliott said.
Chattanooga themselves are running hot, as they beat the New Orleans Jesters 4-0 Saturday night at Finley Stadium to clinch the Southeast title.
In the first match of the Southeast playoffs, CFC rocked league newbies Nashville FC 6-1.
To defeat CFC, Miami must bring their ‘A’ game and find a way to stop the machine that is the Chattanooga offense. In their 10 regular season matches this year, CFC has scored 28 goals and have only surrendered 8. Even the goal happy Jesters and Nashville FC found it difficult to keep the goals from Chattanooga to a minimum.
The winner of this match will reach the Regional Final Saturday in Chattanooga with a 7:30 pm ET kickoff. They will face the winners of the other Semi-Final, Tulsa Athletics versus the Upward Stars.
If Chattanooga can find that magic at Finley Stadium, they will certainly retain their clout as the heavyweights of not only the Southeast Conference, but also all of southern soccer and the NPSL.