The Chattanooga Football Club has played its way into prime position to play for the National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference championship.
Chattanooga FC (5-1-2) is in first place in the Western Division standings with two games remaining on its schedule, tonight at the Georgia Revolution and on July 7 at Jacksonville United. CFC has amassed 17 points, two more than the second-place Knoxville Force.
"We're in a good position, but at the same time we've got two difficult road games ahead of us," CFC coach Bill Elliott said.
The Revolution (6-1-0) lead all Southeast teams with 18 points, but they are in their own battle with the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves (14 points) for the Eastern Division title. CFC and the Revolution need wins tonight to secure division titles and earn a place in the conference championship game.
This is the first season that the Southeast has been split into divisions and the winner of each will meet to play for the conference's spot in the NPSL Final Four in San Diego.
"The winner of [tonight's] game, if there is a winner, is in a position to host the playoff game," Elliott said.
Chattanooga FC can win the Western Division with a win in one of its final two games or if Knoxville loses at the Silverbacks next Friday. CFC was in a similar position last season when it needed to win one of its last two to win the conference. The club dropped both games and missed the postseason.
CFC will be close to full strength tonight against the Revolution. Midfielder Fynn Glover will miss the game due to a heel injury, Elliott said.
For red-hot forward Luke Winter, this will be his last game with CFC. Winter, who has scored three goals in three straight NPSL games, is heading home to England for his sister's wedding and will not return.
"Goal scorers are hard to find in this game and when you've got a striker who's on a hot streak you hate to lose him," Elliott said. "Having said that, Rafa [Faria] has looked good in practice and hasn't played in that role because Luke's been hot."
Faria scored a pair of goals in CFC's 6-2 rout of the Mississippi Storm last week.
Winter will be one of several players unavailable for the long trip to Jacksonville next weekend, Elliott said. Forward Irvin Espinal has been out with a hamstring injury and returned to practice this week, but he won't be game ready until next's week's finale.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...