For the next two weeks, Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium will be the center of the NISA universe as nine teams duke it out for the top spot in the Legends’ Cup. Unlike last year’s Independent Cup, which was treated more like an extended scrimmage by CFC, coach Peter Fuller said CFC’s players are ready for a win after a tough preseason.
The Chattanooga Football Club played USL sides Birmingham and Louisville during a grueling preseason schedule. They also went down to Georgia to play against MLS powerhouse Atlanta United, who coach Fuller said played them at full-strength.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the previous six weeks, a ton, and the thing about lessons are do they affect behavior and change you positively,” coach Fuller asked. “We’ll find out tomorrow.. I like our group, and I wouldn’t have changed the games we played in preseason. There are some on the outside who have said we played too difficult a schedule, and that we didn’t get to work on things. I disagree with that. I believe iron sharpens iron.”
This is now year two in coach Fuller’s 5-3-2 system, one that places a lot of responsibility on wingbacks like Cam Woodfin and Richard Dixon. This year, CFC have added defensive stalwarts such as James Kasak and the returning goalkeeper Phil D’Amico, who should allow those outside players more freedom to attack this season.
“We’ve made some additions that really compliment the system he likes to run with the 11,” Woodfin said. “It helps to know there are more people that can do their job in that specific system. I think this year we’ll be able to go forward a little bit more.”
Chattanooga FC should have a great homefield advantage, as their fanbase should fill up the stands (as much as social-distancing allows, at least). CFC’s players acknowledged the city’s opportunity to show off to a national audience during the tournament.
“It’s really good for the city, because it shows that we’re a city that can host events like this, and it’s going to show what kind of fanbase we have,” midfielder Juan Hernandez said. “I think for us, it’s a great thing for us to have it here.”
“Our club is based on community and family, and I think having the tournament here is spectacular for the community,” defender Shaun Russell said. “Playing at home, we always want to protect our turf, and we’ve got to take it one day at a time. I think the fans are fully engaged, and they take care all the way around. Everywhere you look, there’s CFC banners.”
Because of the grinding preseason schedule, CFC is still looking for their first win of 2021, even if those games didn’t and don’t “really” count.
“So far, we’ve done great things, but until the real competition starts, we can’t tell,” Hernandez said. “And even then, it won’t be the final word because it takes the entire season to see what we’re about. So no matter what happens tomorrow, we’re going to keep working.”
Chattanooga plays Los Angeles Force at 8:00 this evening. Those unable to attend can watch the match on bEIN Sports Xtra.
(Email Joseph Dycus at firstname.lastname@example.org)