Luke Winter, Thomas Halsell and the Chattanooga Football Club were able to answer some questions about their team in the season-opening win against the Georgia Revolution last Saturday. Tonight they'll receive a much larger test.
The club will play in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. against the Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads of the United Soccer League Professional Division. The Hammerheads are 2-1-2 on the year, while CFC stands at 1-0 after its 2-0 dismantling of the Revolution.
CFC played its first match with a week of training and without a full roster. It had goals from Winter and Michael Brooks, while the defense -- completely revamped from last year -- pitched a shutout, with Halsell getting the win in goal.
"I was really pleased," CFC coach Bill Elliott said Monday. "I was pleased with the two goals that we created as well as the shutout on the other end of the field for a group of players that weren't as familiar with each other as we'd liked. It was a good performance.
"I knew we had some players that could score goals, but you never know if you're going to. The defense was untested and there were new players all across the back, so for the players to post a shutout, I thought it was a great performance."
While the defenders continue to familiarize themselves with one another, the attack will benefit from the additions of two former CFC players who joined the team this week. Midfielder Luis Trude, who played with the team in 2012, and forward Jose Ferraz from last year will dress for tonight's match. They should add creativity to an offense that was solid in the team's first match, as Winter scored the first goal on a free kick in the 35th minute, then John Carrier had a second-half free kick that was finished by Brooks.
"I thought it was a very solid performance across the back four. Obviously, we haven't played together that long, but I thought we showed the chemistry was there," Halsell said. "We had a few communication lapses, but for the amount of time we've been together, we showed great promise. I'm happy I got the chance to play with a great bunch of lads that are willing to work and accept the challenges that come along, and we were happy with the result."
The Hammerheads are led in the attack by Samuel Ochea, who has two goals and an assist this season. Daniel Lovitz, Paul Nicholson and Steven Miller are also dangerous offensively, while Quillan Roberts has a pair of shutouts in goal. It will be an opportunity for the hosts to compare themselves against a professional team, and see where they stack up individually and as a team.
"We want to be realistic with the players and fans, that the reality is we're playing a pro team that's been in camp for two months, while we're an amateur team that's been in camp for a week," Elliott said. "We're organized from the top down very professionally -- very similar to any pro team out there -- but we've only been training for a week, so we're up against a pretty big task, but I think it'll be exciting. Hopefully we'll have a big crowd, and being in Finley will balance things out a little bit."
Said Winter: "As a player, you want to compare yourself to the pros. When you're growing up, you want to be where they are, and you definitely find yourself comparing yourselves to them. You want to compete because you never know: You could get picked up.
"We have a lot of college players that are looking to go on to that stage, and there's no harm comparing your ones versus their ones and seeing how you do. If we go out there and if everybody wins their personal battles, who knows? We could definitely win."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.