photo by Joseph Dycus
Once play begins, Travis Ward never stops moving. He spends 90 minutes alternating between locking down his side of the pitch and providing an aggressive presence in attack as a fullback. His defense is nothing to scoff at, but Ward’s pace is best-deployed as a pseudo-winger who can beat his defender and cross the ball in.
“If we’re on top of the game, it allows me to get a little more forward,” Ward says. “We do a great job with our center mids, to where if I go (forward), someone takes my spot.
We have a lot of interchanging spots and that fits our team.”
Before he was terrorizing the flanks for Chattanooga FC, the pride of New Egypt and later Rowan University in New Jersey made the rounds through American soccer’s pyramid. Speaking with a thick Jersey accent, Ward says he appreciates the privilege of being a professional athlete and gives props to those who have supported him.
“I just like having a good time and a smile on my face,” Ward says. “It’s a blessing to be out here playing the game every day. I give all the thanks to my parents and family for supporting me, because I’m just a Jersey boy living my dream.”
A year ago, Ward’s family was supporting him in Asheville with Stumptown AC. His coach was none other than current CFC manager Rod Underwood, a man who utilized Ward’s many talents out of necessity.
“He’s a battler and warrior,” coach Underwood says. “He’s also multifaceted, and we played him at striker (last year) because we just didn’t have any other forwards and we knew he’d do some things off the ball that we knew he’d need to do.”
When coach Underwood took the job in Chattanooga, Ward jumped at the opportunity to join Chattanooga FC. Because of the better squad depth in the Scenic City, Ward has been allowed to play his more natural fullback position.
“I run around nine or 10 miles a day,” Ward says. “It’s hard work, and it’s a testimony to the coaches for putting us through hard training sessions to get us ready for the game. If you train hard, the game comes a little easier.”
Tuesday’s training session was fraught with downpours and gloomy skies, but that didn’t stop Ward from going full-tilt during the scrimmages and short-field exercises. Playing with him was the versatile Luke Ferreira. The two have been integral parts of an attack that has scored 11 goals in three straight wins.
“Being around Travis the last couple of months, (I’ve seen) he’s a very hardworking guy and takes what he does seriously,” Ferreira says. “I don’t know if you can see that from the outside, but you can tell that when you’re in (around the team).”
Ward says his family gets to see him play in a fair number of games, since they recently moved from their New Jersey hometown to a warmer region of the country.
“I have a lot of friends and family up in Jersey, and I went to school there and have a lot of connections,” Ward says. “But my family lives in Florida, so I get the best of both worlds. I get to go up to Jersey for a while, and when the weather gets cold, I go down to Florida for a while.”
When Chattanooga FC takes on Syracuse (and former CFC manager Peter Fuller) on Saturday, the team’s supporters will watch Ward do what he does best. And if the rest of the team also does their part, a handful of goals and a fourth straight win should be well within reach.
“We’re an attacking football team, so coach lets the wingbacks get into the attack a lot, which is something I really enjoy,” Ward says. “For most of my career I’ve played as a winger or attacker, so having the freedom to go forward suits me well.”
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