It’s a truly rare occurrence when conference champions are not allowed to earn a championship before their supporters. Then again, these are rare times in the truest sense of the phrase. After a brief but successful regular season, eastern conference champions Chattanooga FC will play inside of the NBA-style bubble in Detroit during their run at the NISA title.
Fortunately for coach Peter Fuller and his group of talented players, the club has extensive experience playing at Keyworth Stadium, where they and Detroit City FC have partaken in many a classic matchup.
This experience may offset some of the unknown that comes with playing such a high-stakes game with no supporters.
“It’s our first experience (playing a playoff game without fans) and I know we’re playing at Keyworth which is a great place when fans are in there,” coach Fuller said. “I think that tends to even the playing field a little bit.”
“I look at those as trial runs. I think that when we went to Detroit, our last away trip, we learned a lot of lessons in the previous two. How to handle our time away from the field, and the players would tell you the same thing.”
Chattanooga starts their playoff run with a team coach Fuller had high praise for after the Cosmos game.
“Cal United is a great team, and perhaps the most complete team out of anybody. There’s some really good teams and some challenges ahead of us.”
Even though Chattanooga FC did not lose any of their four regular season matches, that does not mean it was an easy road. Chattanooga’s injury report at times seemed to take up half of of the lineup card. The health of four players in particular should be a boon for what is already a potent offense.
“Ian McGrath is a big part of our team,” coach Fuller said, “and having Panzer makes us a much better team too, so I hope we have both of them back.”
“Cam (Woodfin) probably could have played a few minutes, but I just didn’t want to take the chance. I’d rather get him some trial minutes in training rather than the game,” coach Fuller said. He also said Brian Bement still has another gear he might be able to reach in the playoffs. Bement has played in each of the last two games, but only in limited minutes off the bench.
“It’s kind of that old adage where we’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” coach Fuller said. “I think that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Chattanooga’s match will be aired on beINSPORTSUSA, which can be accessed on TIVO, Roku, Redbox, and a variety of other places.