A rainy Finley Stadium
Forty eight hours ago, the Chattanooga Football Club was kicking the ball around in a snowstorm up in Syracuse, preparing for a game that was never played. Twenty four hours ago, the team was making the long trip back south to Chattanooga. And on Tuesday morning, CFC’s players were running through drills in pelting rain as they prepared for Memphis 901 FC. Coach Rod Underwood didn’t mind the conditions, and said he preferred the rain over the bitter cold of upper New York.
“It’s always good to train in the environment,” coach Underwood said.
“Because like if Miami goes to Green Bay to play in the winter, you don’t want that. You’d rather play in the elements so you can be prepared for the actual conditions.”
The game against Memphis, whatever the conditions will be, is a special occasion. For the first time since 2017, CFC will be competing in the second round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. As one of 103 teams, some amateur, some semi-pro, others professional but on a smaller scale, and some MLS, they will have a chance to stake a spot in the CONCACAF Champion’s League.
Their match against the USL side will be CFC’s first competitive match in about two weeks, since their league game against Syracuse was called off. Coach Underwood sees both advantages and disadvantages to the long layoff.
“There’s pluses and minuses,” coach Underwood said. “A plus because you didn’t play and you’re a little bit fresher, and a minus because you want to be sharp, and in reality, we’ve only played one league game.”
The US Open Cup had played 106 consecutive years until 2020, when the knockout tournament was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If Chattanooga FC wins the match, they will enter a third round alongside MLS teams.
Speaking of MLS teams, sides from the highest level of American soccer have won every edition of the tournament since 2000, with Atlanta United winning the last Open Cup in 2019. CFC, now a pro team in NISA, will try to break this trend in their first Open Cup since 2017.
CFC has thrice made it to the third round of the tournament. The most recent trip to this stage was in 2015, when CFC lost to Harrisburg City Islands 2-1. Should CFC defeat Memphis, their next opponent is yet to be determined. CFC spokesman Derrall Stalvey said the draws will be determined on Friday. That third round game will be played on a date between April 19-21.
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