The Chattanooga Red Wolves 2-0 victory over Union Omaha felt both closer and more distant than the score indicated. While coach Obleda’s team in red did not dominate in terms of shots or possession, they never seemed to be in danger of losing the lead. That margin began to take form in the 18th minute, when Ricardo Zacarias made a fantastic run in the 18th minute.
“I started the game as a 9, and I saw Ro go inside, so I opened up wide,” Zacarias said.
“As soon as Ualefi got the ball, I saw the space behind the defender, and I decided to take it. I got the ball from Ualefi, I took a touch, and finished it.”
While Zacarias and the attack made the most of that chance, the defense stood firm against multiple charges by Omaha. Fullback Jonathan Rickets and Ricky Ruiz were both standouts, carefully managing to balance their duties as the last line of defense with their responsibility to get forward and provide width.
“They’re high level soccer players who have an understanding of what the game is telling you when it’s 0-0, or when you’re up one or two,” coach Jimmy Obleda said. “Today was a mature performance from all of them.”
The Red Wolves are beginning to benefit from their star loan, Nashville SC’s first round pick Tanner Dieterich. A stalwart in midfield, he has taken on an attacking role in the last two games after starting as defensive mid. For the second week in a row, the Clemson product put himself on the scoresheet. Much like Zacarias’ goal, it was courtesy of a slick assist. In Dieterich’s case, the speedy Marky Hernandez was one dropping the dime.
“When Marky Hernandez has the ball, just find yourself somewhere near the goal and you’re probably going to find yourself an opportunity,” Dieterich said. “Marky drew a lot of attention and I was able to make a run toward the back post. Marky made a great pass, and I put it in the back of the net.”
“That young man, he got acclimated the first hour he came in,” coach Olbeda said about his MLS-caliber midfielder. “He’s a kid who really came in and asked “what do you need form me and how can I help?” It took us a little time to get him to where we wanted him, and for him to understand what we were asking of him. But now that he’s starting and scoring goals, he’s doing well.”
Union Omaha took a few tries at the goal, but were never able to break through for that elusive goal. The game became chippy toward the back half, when there were a couple of standoffs and pushing matches between players after fouls, but nothing major came of these events. Once the final whistle sounded, the coach turned his attention to the Red Wolves’ next game.
By the time the team suits up for Saturday’s match against league-leading Greenville,, the Red Wolves will have played five games in 14 days. While coach Obleda is less than thrilled about this schedule, he said the team will be prepared for their upcoming game.
“It’s unacceptable for the well-being of the players and their health to do that,” coach Obleda said. “But it is what it is and we have to deal with it. We have one more game in the tank, and then we have a couple days off. We’re going to find a way to keep going and do what we’re doing.”
Fortunately for the Red Wolves, they have found goal-scoring contributions from unexpected places. After essentially being the Greg Hurst show on offense for the first month of the campaign, Chattanooga has found scoring from several other players. This should help offset some of the inevitable fatigue the team will have to deal with on Saturday.
“The whole group is coming together and we’re finding an identity and winning in a bunch of different ways,” Dieterich said. “A ton of guys are stepping up; seven separate goal scorers, so there’s a lot of effort from all around the team, and that’s so important when you play four games in ten days.”
Chattanooga and Omaha’s match was originally scheduled to be played in August. However, because of inclement weather, the match was postponed and rescheduled.