Ricardo Bahena could be seen on the wing at the end of Chattanooga FC’s Thursday practice, working on driving toward his defender before whipping crosses into the box. Next to the 19-year-old was coach Peter Fuller, who gave the teenager specialized instructions as clouds loomed overhead.
“You have to do what I was doing today, which is spending time working with and coaching them when we get free moments,” Fuller said.
Bahena, Angel Hurtado, and occasional starter Damian Rodriguez have yet to turn 20 but all have the potential to eventually move far above the third-tier of the USA’s soccer pyramid.
However, at this time, the word “potential” is the keyword as the trio is still learning the pro game.
“It’s about dedicating time to them in practice,” veteran midfielder Juan Hernandez said. “You have to be in constant communication with them about different situations. Education is constant. You have to be constant with talking, with your communication, with your explanations.”
Like Hernandez says, those three (and goalkeeper Michael Barrueta) get most of their playing time in practice, where the team has some sort of scrimmage three or four times a week.
“That’s your opportunity to get the young ones playing time,” coach Fuller said. “They also all play for the North Georgia Soccer Association, and Ricky, Damian, and Angel all have the right to go back and play with them in exhibitions.”
“You have to be patient, because they are going to make mistakes,” Hernandez said. “They have to learn through those too, and so if you have a practical approach to it, then they will be learning.”
The entire Chattanooga FC squad is trying to take a “sharper” approach to attacking during this week’s home match against San Diego. CFC has gone three straight matches without a win, and have failed to score more than one goal in any of those matches.
“We’ve been doing a lot of one-touch work so we can speed up play and be a little sharper on the ball,” coach Fuller said. “I think the key thing is that if we only get three chances a game, I’m worried. Even if we score on all three.”
Fuller says the team has gotten opportunities to blow games open, but that the team just is not finishing those chances. He says that with the attacking talent CFC has between Markus Naglestad, Daniel Jackson, and Brian Bement up front, the team should not be eking out a goal a game.
“Right now, we’re creating enough, and even in the LA game, because of how direct we were, there was a 15 minute segment in the second-half where we should have been up 3-1,” Fuller said.
CFC kicks off against San Diego on Saturday at approximately 7:30.