The Chattanooga Football Club is inching ever-closer to their first competitive match in months. In order to prepare for this momentous occasion, a match against the Georgia Revolution, coach Peter Fuller’s team went from socially-distanced training to full-contact drills this week.
“It feels wonderful,” said coach Fuller. “The four weeks of social distancing tried our patience and our minds in terms of developing exercises that we could do and compete with. We started Monday with full-contact practicing, so it’s been great to have everyone be back.”
If there is one aspect the team may need to sharpen up between now and the 11th, it is their tackling. After a month of not being able to be within six feet of one another, the players are getting a crash course on defending.
“We’ve needed a few body bags, because you’ve got guys who have a lot of pent up energy,” said coach Fuller. “Poor timing and bad angles where you have guys clattering into other guys and everything else. It’s nothing sinister, it’s just clumsy. This is expected, because you can’t pen people up for three months, and then not allow them to tackle or interact for four weeks, and then assume it will be like it was.”
“It’s been real disjointed, real physical, and the quality of play hasn’t been great,” said coach Fuller. “But at least we’re playing, and we’re going to make strides, so I’m not worried about it. The biggest thing is that this now is us now looking at this like another preseason, and starting to make sure that on the 11th, we can put our best foot forward.”
Even before this week, coach Fuller said players have been able to hone their skills with a variety of COVID-safe drills. However, he said things are a quite a bit easier when defense is not allowed.
“There are some attacking things you’ve been able to cover and be able to socially distance,” said coach Fuller. “Crossing, finishing, some possession work, passing patterns; things like that. We’re in pretty good shape with things like that. But the other side is that you can throw some of that out the window when you have tackles flying in and now all of a sudden pressure is on.”
Coach Fuller had nothing but praise for the team’s upcoming opponent, who CFC knows very well from their days in the NPSL. Last season saw the teams play a pair of close matches.
“We’re playing Georgia Revolution who is a former NPSL foe and a very good organization,” said coach Fuller. “They beat us here last year, and we beat them at their place in a very hotly-contested game. It’s one of those things where I don’t know what they’re going to come with, but I expect them to be competitive and athletic.”
Finley Stadium will unfortunately be silent on the July match, as fans are not allowed on the premises. Coach Fuller said fans have a large impact on the energy of the game, which is something that can be seen on televised matches of England’s Premier League or Germany’s Bundesliga.
“I think it’s one of the reasons you’re seeing so many of the visiting teams have a lot of success,” said coach Fuller. “It’s because the intimidation factor of having 20,000 people there wearing their team’s colors screaming and yelling at you has been taken out of the game.”
CFC will play the Savannah Clovers at Finley on July 18, and then they will travel to Columbia SC to play Soda City. On Aug. 1, each of the four teams will meet up back at Finley Stadium for third and first place games.
CFC said the June 11 and 18 matches will not have fans in attendance. However, “Plans for fan attendance on June 25th and August 1st will be announced at a later date as details are finalized.”
“We couldn’t be happier to get our guys back on the pitch, but it is imperative that we take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of every player, coach, and staff member” said Jeremy Alumbaugh, Managing Director, Chattanooga FC. “Discussions are ongoing to determine what potential limited attendance scenarios may look like at Finley, and we are appreciative of the support we continue to receive during this pandemic. We are confident in our ability to host matches in a safe manner with reduced capacity and will continue to finalize those plans with local officials. The Independent Cup will be a tremendous pre-season type of event as our full focus is on beginning the NISA 2020-21 season in August.”
Coach Fuller said, “I would echo Jeremy’s sentiments about getting back on the field. We are excited to be back training and looking forward to the Independent Cup. Obviously, we are concerned about everyone’s health: players, coaches, staff members, and our great supporters. We hope everything goes as planned and we are able to get back on the field on the 11th against Georgia Revolution.”
The schedule for the Independent Cup will be as follows:
CFC vs Georgia Revolution 8 p.m. (Finley Stadium)
Soda City at Savannah Clovers
Soda City vs Georgia Revolution 5 p.m.
CFC vs Savannah Clovers 8 p.m. (Finley Stadium)
Georgia Revolution vs Savannah Clovers 3 p.m.
CFC vs Soda City 6 p.m. (Columbia, SC)
Aug 1 (Finley Stadium)
3rd Place Game 5 p.m.
1st Place Game 8 p.m.