The second goal in CFC’s 3-0 win over New Amsterdam was truly vintage for the best team in NISA’s Eastern Conference. After the New York team used an overhead kick to clear the ball, CFC’s Juan Hernandez positioned himself underneath it around midfield and then corralled it with a running start.
Beside him was Zeca, who readied himself for one of his trademark runs down the middle. After forward committed to the move, Hernandez complimented his longtime teammate with an perfect pass down the middle. Zeca used his pace to split both centerbacks, and was able to get a shot away just as they converged upon him. The shot went past the keeper on the low right corner, and the two CFC legends celebrated in front of hundreds of fans.
“I know Juan has the quality to find me, so it’s just a matter of making the right run at the right time,” Zeca said. “It’s just a long time chemistry, and I’ve known him very well so it helps.”
CFC wanted to be direct, and they wasted no time in getting the ball down the pitch early in the match. Zeca took a Sean Hoffstatter pass down left sideline a few minutes in. He was able to control the ball and continued to pace down the green and gridiron of Finley Stadium. H was able to make his way toward the endzone, but his defender remained close by.
However, as he has done so often in his illustrious career, the Brazilian used whatever advantage he was afforded to create an angle for the a shot. As his window began to close, Zeca finally pulled the trigger on a low rocket to the far post. The goalkeeper could not stop powerful shot and CFC went up 1-0.
“We know we’re going to have to work against a good team,” Zeca said. “So we knew that getting that early goal would help us settle and breathe a little bit.”
The 25th minute saw New Amsterdam put a bit of a scare into the Chattanooga Football Club. After Reddington’s defenders successfully warded away a corner kick, the keeper also blocked a long-range volley from outside the box. But instead of clearing it away, a poaching striker found his way to the ball.
However, just as the New Amsterdam striker was ready to load up and equalize the game, the unthinkable happened. He slipped! Rather than putting a goal on the board, he simply landed on his behind. The threat swiftly dissipated and the lead was safe.
CFC then salted the game away with a duo of second-half goals, the third of which was a beauty set up by former ETSU midfielder Nick Spielman. Rather than attempt a shot himself, the man used his head to flick on a pass to the nearby Sean Hoffstatter. From there, the forward knocked in a spicy score to give CFC a three goal margin of victory.
“The opponent is going to give you three ways to break them down. Through them, over them, or around them,” coach Fuller said. “They were giving us “over them,” and we did a really great job of creating some great shots off deep balls where we skipped the midfield and went to the front. Or we had balls that were flicked on and held up and finding runners in behind them.”
As spectacular as CFC’s quick strike offense, their defensive work was also magnificent at times. Defender Shaun Russell had what was perhaps the outstanding play of the day when he ran down a fastbreaking New Amsterdam forward and dislodged the ball inside the box.
With the win, Chattanooga FC won the conference in their first year as a fully professional team. The fans who attended the rainy game cheered on their team after the match ended, dancing and chanting with the players.
“I’m really proud of the guys and happy for the community,” coach Fuller said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing for Chattanooga. You’ve got some bigtime teams like Cosmos and Detroit City, and to go 3-1 and win it, it’s just phenomenal.”
“Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been the best, but everyone fought through it and we got the win, as we usually do at Finley,” Zeca said. “It feels like Chattanooga again, just getting results and giving the fans good performances. It just feels right.