Chattanooga FC is one step closer to winning their first National Premier Soccer League Championship, as a 4-1 win over the Sacramento Gold has helped them punch their ticket to the NPSL Final. In front of the largest NPSL crowd in Chattanooga history (8,878 fans) Saturday night at Finley Stadium, CFC continues their offensive onslaught and achieved their first NPSL Finals appearance since 2012 and their third overall (also in 2010, which they lost to the Sacramento Gold).
“I feel blessed,” Chattanooga FC head coach Bill Elliott said his team. “What a great group of players we have, at the half we said that we can’t park the bus, we have to get three and four goals, if we try to defend for 45 minutes, Sacramento is too talented and we’ll pay the price. Thank goodness we have the players with the right mentality to go out there and score.”
“Its amazing to be in this stadium with almost 9,000 fans,” he said of the night. “We would like to be playing here in Finley next week, we hope that works out.”
In a game that saw plenty of quality shots and chances, Sacramento’s Jason Jones scored the first goal of the match (14’). Chattanooga equalized with Luke Winter (26’) and took the first half lead with a great run and shot from Jose Farraz (39’). Second half goals from Luis Trude (72’) and James Moore (79’) sealed up the win.
“I am really proud of my team,” Sacramento Gold head coach Ruben Mora said of his squad. “We’re disappointed in the way things developed in the game, but Chattanooga is a good team.”
Sacramento’s Jason Jones beat Chattanooga goalie Greg Hartley with an impressive 40 yard shot. Hartley had been up towards the top of the box while Sacramento had taken a goal kick. The ball bounced off a head, then chested perfectly to Jones who smacked the volley into a long shot and scored on the empty net, as Hartley had no chance since he was out of position.
“It was a nice goal, it was a beautiful goal,” Mora said of Jones’ goal. “He saw the keeper out and took his volley, the goalkeeper also had the sun in his eyes, and it looked like maybe he wasn’t sure where it was coming from until the last second.”
Chattanooga answered in the 26th minute on a cross from their center back, Jordan Dunstan. As Dunstan crossed the ball in, the Gold’s keeper John Connolly didn’t charge and two CFC players had a chance to head it in, but they missed and the ball bounced around and in a rush between Chattanooga’s Winter, and Connolly and his defender, the ball found its way into the net and Chattanooga had quickly equalized.
“I was just hoping that one of our guys was going to get on the end of the cross,” Dunstan said of his part in the goal. “As long as we score, that’s all that matters and we move on to the next stage. At the end of the day, it’s a team effort.”
Chattanooga thought they had taken the lead in the 38th minute, when a headed corner kick bounced into the back of the net. But, the headed ball caused an offside.
They did, however, score just a minute later, when Jose Farraz dribbled 40 yards through defenders into the box and put the left footed shot into the far right corner of the net. Chattanooga had erased the early 1-0 deficit and led at the half, 2-1, but not before another wonder strike that hit the side of the net from Sacramento gave CFC fans a feeling that the match would remain close.
Chattanooga’s Elliott was only able to get to the game at the half, due to a work commitment.
“I was flying in a two-seat Cessna to get here. I was being texted and found out we were down 1-0,” he said of his travels. “But I’m happy that the coaching staff was able to step up.”
Sacramento certainly did not help themselves on the third Chattanooga goal. With a wild kick, in an attempt to clear, to the middle of the field coming from the Sacramento center back, Luis Trude was able to succinctly chest the ball and use his left foot on the bounce, to kick the ball over Connelly and give CFC the 3-1 lead in the 72nd minute.
“I had seen the keeper off his line a couple of times,” Trude said of the goal. “I didn’t have the perfect moment to do it before, so this time I was able to give myself the perfect touch. I think that the team works so hard and it helps a lot of people to score. It’s good that we don’t depend only a few to score.”
Trude scored last week’s opening goal and Winter scored the second against Tulsa.
Chattanooga was still not done. In the 79th minute, James Moore was able to slide a great one-on-one shot with Connelly, as the Gold were outmanned since they were pressing for a goal of their own.
“It’s a long season, a lot of hard work, and it’s a relief to get on the score sheet,” the defender said of his goal, his first of the year.
Last week, both teams won by 2-0 margins, as Chattanooga defeated the Tulsa Athletics in the South Region Final and Sacramento defeated the Sonoma County Sol in the West Final. Chattanooga will find out who they play in the Finals when the New York Red Bulls U-23 squad meets Lansing United on Sunday.
“We are excited to be back (in the Finals), but this time we will be looking to win it and not just be happy to be there.”