Saturday truly did feel like Christmas in July for Chattanooga FC. Instead of presents, they got a handful of goals and a trophy as the winner of the summer Independents Cup. While the visiting Soda City had some talented players, they were no match for the boys in blue, who looked bigger, sharper, and more athletic over 90 minutes. CFC triumphed 5-0 over their overmatched opponents.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to present the 2021 NISA Independent Cup trophy to these gentlemen,” exclaimed former club chairman and current Chattanooga mayor Tim Kelly, who handed the trophy to veteran forward Juan Hernandez.
Cam Woodfin ripped down the right sideline and was confronted by a Soda City defender, but instead of going down, the winger pushed through the contact and pushed toward the goal.
He crossed the ball back to a couple of waiting teammates, who promptly slammed into each other. The ball kindly bounced to Markus Naglestad. The most dangerous striker in Chattanooga booted home CFC’s first goal of the game into the low right corner.
In the 14th minute, the speedy Brett Jones did his best Randy Moss impression to net CFC’s second goal. With Richard Dixon playing the role of Daunte Culpepper, Jones showcased his blazing speed and split the defense by running a go route underneath a high-arching pass.
Dixon lofted a pass from the fifty yard-line, and it didn’t come down until his speedy receiver caught up to it at the 15 yard line. Jones controlled the ball and netted his goal by flicking a cheeky and looping shot over the rushing keeper and giving CFC a 2-0 lead.
“Guys scored some great goals,” coach Peter Fuller said. “I think you’re trying to develop a mentality when it comes to scoring. Look, we scored so few goals this spring that right now, if we get a chance to score, we better score them.”
Naglestad wowed the fans in the 30th minute after Woodfin made another fine cross into the box. Standing in front of the goal but with a defender in his way, Naglestad flicked the ball behind his back like it was a basketball on grass and skated past his defender. While his hard shot into the lower left corner was saved, it was still a spectacular move.
Chattanooga FC’s defense, spearheaded by Nick Spielman, Richard Dixon, and Shaun Russell, locked down the Soda City attack. Any time the visitors thought they had an open lane to attack, it was quickly closed. After getting a good shot off in the first minute, it took until the 39th minute to get a couple of volleys into the box. Keeper Alec Reddington made a couple of nice saves and the threat passed.
“We weren’t too sharp (on defense), but to be honest, when you’re on the ball that much it’s a natural tendency to let your guard down," coach Fuller said. "I know we’ll have to be significantly better when we play Stumptown later in august.”
In the 44th minute, wingback James Kasak buzzed down the left sideline and into the box. He whipped a low cross to Brian Bement. Instead of trying to smash in a contested shot, he flicked a back heel pass into space across the box. Screaming into the area was Naglestad, who sent in a rocket to make it 3-0.
“We’ve played together enough in games and in training to know that if I made my front post run, he’d be following behind me,” assist-man Bement said. “I put it in the spot I knew he would be, and Marcus did the rest.”
Chattanooga FC maintained their form in the second half, with the only negative being an injury to Sean Hoffstatter. Reddington made a diving save to his right on a Soda City corner, and the youthful Damien Rodriguez made a wonderful cutback pass in the 64th minute.
Marcus Naglestad proved he is more than just a scorer in the 68th minute. As the free kick taker, he knifed in a slick pass to a cutting Juan Hernandez. He perfectly timed his run and was completely unmarked when he smacked in CFC’s fourth goal of the night. CFC cruised the rest of the way, adding one more late goal to make it 5-0, and sealed the cup victory.
“I think Markus is the kind of guy who thrives when he has time in the game,” coach Fuller said about the player who had two goals and an assist, “You have to let him go the full 90, and I thought he did very well.”
Naglestad and CFC start their Fall season on August 7th when they host Stumptown AC.
"If you take your foot off the gas, it can come back to bite you in the butt," Bement said. "Tonight we made sure to keep with it, and hopefully the momentum swings with us through the rest of the season."
You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus .