CFC Practicing Hard For July 11 Tournament In Empty Stadium
Friday, June 26, 2020 - by Joseph Dycus
The Chattanooga Football Club’s practices look a bit odd from far away. Players in red and blue kits darted around a collection of mannequins meant to simulate defenders. Coach Peter Fuller’s squad goes through COVID-proof drills, which mostly focused on team cohesion on the pitch.
“It’s simulating the shape of an opponent, and we were mainly working on our shape and how we want to try to play, and how we want to play through,” said coach Fuller. “That was the second day in a row we’ve done that, and we’ll do it again tomorrow.
We’re basically simulating them in an area of the field where they’re defending as an 11, and what might be available to us.”
Fuller then explained the new drill the team was going through to practice breaking down a defense.
“There are goals on top of the box at each end of the pitch, and it’s the width of the football lines,” said coach Fuller. “You have three players in a zone, and you’ll have a team of red of three and a team of blue of three, and then another team of red and another team of blue. The reds are going in one direction and the blues in the other, and you have to play through the lines.”
While defense is a priority for the team, practicing the more important half of the game is a challenge with the all-important social distancing guidelines in place.
“It’s really difficult, so what you end up spending a lot of time with zonal defending and on spacing in between lines,” said coach Fuller. “Because if you’re the first defender and you’re closing down the ball, the second and third defender, because of the distance between each other, can’t get close enough to cover so balls don’t get between players and get split. So it’s hard that way, but we understand it’s a lot better than being confined to your house.”
The coach praised his team’s character, which he described as a mix of older and experienced players, and rookies. Even though there are age differences, he said “they get along great.” On the field itself, he spotlighted a couple of the newcomers as being standouts during practice sessions.
“I think Ryan Marcano has done a good job for us, and I certainly think Kyle Carr from League One has done a good job,” said coach Fuller. “Nick Spielman has stepped in and done really well, and I think Sean Hoffstater is a young forward who will be a good player for us. So I think there’s a number of guys who have done well.”
The Chattanooga Football Club is not just practicing for laughs and giggles though. Chattanooga’s team in blue is preparing for a small tournament involving NISA, UPSL, and NPSL squads, with the first game taking place at Fort Finley on July 11. Coach Fuller said scouting their upcoming opponents is understandably impossible.
“You got nothing (in terms of footage of the teams), and that’s why for us it’s wise to just concentrate on ourselves,” said coach Fuller. “It’s a cup competition so obviously you want to win it, but I think that with us, we may focus on our shapes and ways to play that make sense for us. So we may play a system in one Saturday, and the next Saturday play something else. Just to experiment with things and see what works for us.”
He said three of the four games are set in Chattanooga, which would normally mean the visiting squad would have to deal with thousands of raucous fans. However, because of COVID-19, he said that at the very least, the July 11 contest will be played in an empty stadium. By now, many soccer fans should be used to watching teams play in empty stadiums, with the German Bundesliga and English Premier League operating like this for weeks now.
“I think people are starting to understand just how important the supporters and the crowd is,” said coach Fuller. “When you have people at games, there’s an energy that’s like nothing else. It’s phenomenal. But we’ll deal with it, because that’s the way it is, and it’s the world we’re living in right now. I hope it doesn’t last forever, but for right now, you’re just trying to make the best of the situation.”
Coach Fuller’s team can spend a good portion of their practices on defense, but because of their inability to practice tackling or marking, that aspect of their players’ repertoire will undeniably be a bit rusty. This might lead to higher-than-normal goal totals in the July matches.
“There may be some high scoring games, and the theory would be that defending is the thing we haven’t been able to do much of during this time,” said coach Fuller. “So that’s probably going to be the thing that is missing.”
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