Chattanooga FC picked up three points with a 1-0 win over Flower City Union in front of a 3,437 fans on Saturday night. A first half penalty kick from Markus Naglestad was enough for the boys in blue to defeat the defensive-minded visitors from Rochester.
Chattanooga FC entered the match in decent form, picking up 2 wins and 2 draws in the last 4 matches against direct playoff position competitors. On the other hand, Flower City was already mathematically out of playoff contention and seen as a necessary win for every other team in the league.
Rod Underwood selected a strong starting eleven to take on the visiting Rochester side, making just three changes from the goalless draw in Michigan last time out.
Greg Stratton and Nick Spielman earned starts on the back line, and Alec Redington started the game between the sticks in an otherwise unchanged eleven.
It was clear from the starting whistle that Chattanooga was the only team in search of three points. Flower City lined up with a low defensive block and a man shadowing Naglestad at all times. Chattanooga enjoyed large amounts of possession, moving the ball around freely up to the final third of the pitch. However, the boys in blue were unable to connect on a final ball throughout much of the half. It was clear something special would need to happen to break down the Flower City defense.
In the 35th minute, Captain Richard Dixon stepped up to produce that moment. Dixon made a proactive interception high up the pitch and followed his touch into the box where he was taken down by a Flower City defender to earn a penalty. There was no one better to take the spot kick than league top goalscorer Markus Naglestad, who slammed the ball into the top left corner to beat the keeper and put Chattanooga up 1-0.
Naglestad forced the Flower City keeper into a save from a free kick in the 44th minute, but the half played out in much the same way it began.
The dynamic of the game totally changed in the second half. Flower City was in need of a goal and were willing to begin committing men forward to find it. This left more space for Chattanooga to operate in, and the shift was immediately apparent. In the 49th minute, the boys in blue crafted a wonderful opening for Taylor Gray who couldn’t quite keep his shot down to double the advantage.
The situation worsened for Flower City in the 56th minute. Dylan Evande of the Union picked up two yellow cards in the space of three minutes to earn himself an early shower and leave his team with ten men.
With the game out of equilibrium, it was one way traffic for the remainder of the game. Chattanooga created chance after chance, testing the Flower City keeper on multiple occasions. Damian Rodriguez, Taylor Gray, and Markus Naglestad all forced saves, while several more shots flashed just wide of the target. It was a wonder that the boys in blue didn’t score again, but ultimately the game ended 1-0 in favor of Chattanooga FC.
Tate Robertson was voted man of the match after playing a solid game at right back. Robertson had the freedom to go forward and help create chances for CFC, and his proactive defending broke up what few opportunities Flower City had.
Robertson and the rest of the boys in blue will be looking to play at an even higher level next match as the play Albion San Diego in a fight for a first round bye in the NISA playoffs. Chattanooga FC hosts Albion this Wednesday, September 28th at Finley Stadium.