published Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club rocks Finley, advances to NPSL championship match

Chattanooga FC’s Luke Winter, right, and Sacramento keeper John Connolly watch as Winter’s shot goes in for CFC’s first goal.
Chattanooga FC’s Luke Winter, right, and Sacramento keeper John Connolly watch as Winter’s shot goes in for CFC’s first goal.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
  • photo
    The Chattanooligans cheer during CFC's National Premiere Soccer League semifinal match against Sacramento Gold FC on Saturday at Finley Stadium. CFC won 4-1.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

  • photo
    Chattanooga FC players celebrate their third goal during CFC's National Premiere Soccer League semifinal match against Sacramento Gold FC on Saturday at Finley Stadium. CFC won 4-1.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

One trend was going to be bucked when the Chattanooga Football Club faced Sacramento Gold FC in the semifinals of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.

Saturday night, it was the one that favored Chattanooga.

CFC scored a pair of first-half goals, and was able to hold off the Gold 4-1 in front of 8,878 fans at Finley Stadium. The win secures Chattanooga (13-2-2) a spot in the NPSL national final to be played at a site and time to be determined.

The other semifinal between the New York Red Bulls U-23 squad and Lansing United will be played today in New York.

In program history, CFC was 2-0 in national semifinal matches, with wins in 2010 and 2012. They had only faced Sacramento once before, and fell 3-1 in the 2010 championship.

Chattanooga is also the only club in the NPSL to appear in three national championship matches.

Buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, Chattanooga had some early momentum and a few opportunities, but it was the visiting club that took an early lead when Jason Jones nailed a strike from about 40 yards out that caught goalkeeper Greg Hartley out of position and gave Sacramento a 1-0 edge, as well as silenced the crowd momentarily.

Those same fans got right back into the match in the 26th minute, when Jordan Dunstan had a cross that was initially headed by Sias Reyneke before being pushed through the net by Luke Winter after the ball bounced in the box some. It was followed shortly after by what was initially thought to be a goal Chris Lavie that was waved off due to the CFC defender being offside, but moments later, Jose Ferraz weaved through the Sacramento defense and nailed a low-arching shot to give Chattanooga a 2-1 lead they'd take into the locker room.

"I saw the space and knew nobody would stop me when I put the ball in front of me," Ferraz, whose goal was his first of the year, said. "I was able to put the ball in the back of the net where it belonged."

The one-goal lead wouldn't last forever, but only because the Chattanooga side wasn't done scoring yet. They stretched their advantage to 3-1 when Luis Trude chipped the ball over the goalkeeper from about 20 yards out, then watched the lead swell to a three-goal advantage when defender James Moore used some nifty footwork and scored.

"We were up 2-1 at the half, but it wasn't enough," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "We can't park the bus and try to defend for 45 minutes; we had to get another goal and put the game away, and that's what the boys did.

"They did a fantastic job and I'm blessed to be a part of this team and this organization."

Chattanooga has put a bid in to host the final, which would be played Saturday evening.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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