published Monday, August 4th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club earns respect despite loss in NPSL championship match

Chattanooga Football Club's Luke Winter celebrates after scoring in the first half of the National Premier Soccer League championship game Saturday night. Chattanooga FC lost 3-1 to the New York Red Bull U-23 team. (Contributed Photo/Tracey Stiegker)
Chattanooga Football Club's Luke Winter celebrates after scoring in the first half of the National Premier Soccer League championship game Saturday night. Chattanooga FC lost 3-1 to the New York Red Bull U-23 team. (Contributed Photo/Tracey Stiegker)
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga Football Club's stay in New York lasted a little longer than they had previously expected. And unfortunately, it was not because of any post-match celebrations after their National Premier Soccer League championship match.

Due to some problems with US Airways, the club's flight into Chattanooga was changed, and players were scattered onto flights to Pensacola, Birmingham, Charlotte and Chattanooga. It was one lasting group moment for a club that saw its national-championship dreams dashed Saturday night by the New York Red Bulls' U-23 squad, which won 3-1 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

CFC head coach Bill Elliott described the match as having an "ugly flow" to it, with momentum swaying back and forth until the New York club scored two goals in the final six minutes to pull away.

"In the second half for a while, we had the match going the way we wanted it," Elliott said Sunday night. "We were baiting them into taking chances, but later in the half, they started to gain control and impose their style on us."

Chattanooga FC (15-3-2) took a 1-0 edge on a rebound goal by Luke Winter, but New York (16-0-0) evened the match seven minutes later when Scott Thomsen scored.

No team was able to assume control of the match on the scoreboard until the 85th minute, when PUMA Player of the Match Joe Farrell netted a shot. Trailing by one goal, CFC started to push numbers forward in hopes of an equalizer, but the Red Bulls countered, putting the match away on Sam Adjei's goal in the 90th minute.

The core of the Red Bulls' club has been together since they were 14 years old, winning national championships at the U-16 and U-18 level. Elliott said that there are "two or three guys" that will be playing for the Red Bulls' Major League Soccer club next season.

A week after the club drew 8,878 fans at Finley Stadium in their 4-1 win over Sacramento FC, over 100 fans of the Chattanooga Football Club made the trip to New Jersey, either by bus or some other means of transportation. The fan support wasn't lost on those in New York.

"People said the fan support was better than most MLS fans that come into Red Bull Arena," Elliott said. "Sunil Gulati, the head of U.S. Soccer [Federation], greeted [CFC general manager] Sean McDaniel on Saturday talking about how many we drew at Finley. I think we put Chattanooga on the map, moreso this year because of not only our appearances in other finals, but our success scoring goals in the U.S. Open Cup.

"It's crazy that even though we were in New York City, there was a buzz about Chattanooga."

Contact gene henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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