The Chattanooga Football Club had a great (re)start to their season on Saturday with a 3-1 win over the Georgia Revolution. In the following days, the club has been diligently working on further improving various aspects of their craft.
One area that needs improvement is the midfield, and more specifically their defensive solidity. The Revolution netted their only goal when Todd Fidler exploited a sizable gap from 15 yards away, nestled comfortably between the midfielders and CFC’s three-man backline.
“We worked on a lot of shape stuff with our midfield defending,” said CFC Coach Peter Fuller. “It was an area we felt wasn’t sharp enough on Saturday night, so we spent a lot of time on flattening it out a little bit and moving collectively as a three defensively. We got some good work done.”
Coach Fuller and CFC had success running out a somewhat-unconventional 3-5-2 formation, which put more responsibility on Cam Woodfin and Richard Dixon to play as wingbacks. Wingbacks have to provide width on the outside on offense, while also covering the flanks defensively. The majority of Saturday’s attacks went through Woodfin on the left, with the speedster dribbling in and out of the Revolution defense with ease.
“I thought Cam was very good, and it’s not necessarily a natural position for him,” said Coach Fuller, “but I thought he did a good job with it and caused them some real problems going forward. I thought his defending was pretty good too.”
“I think we felt like we found something when we played in Oakland (back in March) in the NISA opener. When we came back, we wanted to start with that and see what we had. I like it, but I think there will be some additions to it, in terms of morphing it into something different or turning it into a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. You always need to have a backup system.”
One of the reasons CFC has played with a three-in-the-back formation is because of a dearth of natural defenders. Soren Yuhaschek and Raymond Lee both sat out of the game, which bumped midfielder Alec McKinley to the left fullback. Coach Fuller had high praise for the rookie.
“He played well for a young kid in his first pro game,” said Coach Fuller. “I think playing as a defender makes the adjustment for pro soccer far easier than playing as a midfielder, which is one of the reasons we wanted to use him back there. I think he’s got some really good instincts defensively, and he might have been one of the best players on the field in the first 25 minutes.”
Midfielder Ian McGrath had the honor of scoring CFC’s first goal of the game Saturday night, and that was not the try he had at goal. While McGrath took some possibly-questionable attempts from distance, Coach Fuller said he did not mind those shots.
“For the guys that are good at scoring goals, the only bad shot is the one they don’t take,” said Coach Fuller. “I don’t worry about it, because I see too many guys that pass shots up rather than take too many shots. I’m okay with it, and if the thing is, he can absolutely crush a ball and he’s great at getting on the end of things in the 18 yard box. So from that end of it, I’m probably more disappointed when he doesn’t shoot than when he shoots.”
During an earlier practice, Coach Fuller said this series of games will be seen as an opportunity to try out different lineups. Against the Savannah Clovers, CFC fans may see a few new faces in the starting lineup.
“It’s hard to say, and I think there is a chance it could be someone like Sean Hoffstatter or Kaleb Jackson,” said Coach Fuller. “We may go for something a little different in midfield and play two sixes instead of two 10s. I’d imagine that probably wouldn’t be the case, but it’s a possibility.”
Chattanooga FC plays against Savannah Clovers FC at 8 p.m. on Saturday for their second leg of the cup. Soda City and Georgia Revolution will duke it out at 5 p.m. Both matches take place at Finley Stadium.