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Pro soccer is back in Chattanooga; Academy players watch from home

By Staff , 07/12/20, 7:45AM EDT


CFC Academy players finally got to cheer on their pro soccer counterparts from Chattanooga Football Club on Saturday night.

CFC hosted Georgia Revolution in the NISA Independent Cup at Finley Stadium. The stadium was not open to the public. That didn't stop Academy players from putting on their Academy gear and cheering for the boys in blue.

All three goals and two assists came from CFC Academy Coaches. Brian Bement (Club Training Coach) scored two goals. Ian McGrath (Club Training Coach). Richard Dixon (Club Training Coach) had one assist and Zeca Ferraz (2006 Boys Navy Coach) had an assist.

game recap by The Chattanoogan

By Joseph Dycus/The Chattanoogan

As the tallest player on the pitch, the Chattanooga Football Club’s towering and burly Ian McGrath rumbled down the pitch with aplomb, an inviting target for a pass five minutes into CFC’s 3-1 win over the Georgia Revolution. He graciously welcomed a sterling diagonal pass from fullback Richard Dixon, who was a good 20 to 30 yards away from McGrath when he let the pass go. 

After he collected Dixon’s offering, McGrath had the privilege of scoring the first point by a professional athlete in Tennessee since the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tyus Jones made a free throw in the dying seconds of a March 10 game against Orlando. 

“We’ve been (full contact) training for two weeks and it was obviously a rough game, but we got the three points,” said assist-man Richard Dixon.” It was exciting to get back on the pitch and compete and being involved in the first goal felt good.”

As Dixon alluded to, the game had a herky-jerky start, with both teams rusty after the months of inaction.

At around the 13 minute mark, the Georgia Revolution’s midfield made one of their many early runs through CFC’s tenuous three-in-the-back defense. On this particular occasion, and unmarked Todd Fidler tied the game at one apiece with a line-drive from 15 yards away. 

For the next half hour, both team exchanged threatening forays into the final third, but could not break through. For Chattanooga, they seemed to find success by playing through the trio of CFC stalwarts in Zeca, Cameron Woodfin, and Juan Hernandez. Woodfin in particular seemed to relish every chance he got to break down the Revolution defense as a left winger, sometimes almost overdoing it with his dribbling exhibitions. 

Zeca, perhaps the face of the club, garnered his first assist on a decisive pass to his right side around the 40th minute. The brilliant forward lasered a driving ground ball to Brian Bement, who somehow fired another low shot across the face of the goalkeeper and into the opposite low left corner of the goal. 

“In training we’ve been working on different partnerships, and Zeca and I have been getting reps together,” said Bement. “As the time has gone on, we’ve felt more comfortable. But we’ve both been around the game for a handful of years, so it’s nice to be able to play off each other.”

Normally, such a goal would be celebrated by several thousand CFC fans rocking Finley Stadium. However, with COVID-19 still a very real concern, the stands were mostly empty, with only maybe 50-odd people in the bleachers. However, without fans in the stands, CFC’s players had to find energy or motivation from another source. 

“Everything the city and country have been through, with the pandemic and social issue, we thought about that and how soccer can be a positive thing for everybody right now,” said Zeca. “And we’re very self-motivated people. We spend lots of time out by ourselves in the gym and in training.”

For much of the game, the Georgia Revolution had done their best to muck up the game with hard fouls and an overall chippy attitude. While a few arguments and one yellow card on Zeca attested to this, Chattanooga was able to adjust to Georgia’s style of play. 

“It does (take a minute to adjust),” said Bement. “The first time you get kicked is an eye-opener, but it’s part of the game, so you adjust quickly.”

The Chattanooga Football Club’s last goal was another beauty by the Zeca/Bement combo. After the shot-happy McGrath was targeted on another pass on the counterattack, he instead popped the ball forward to Zeca, who was running with Bement in the middle of the pitch. 

Instead of trying to corral the ball, Zeca deftly flicked the ball ahead to Bement, who was not offsides but was instead surrounded by acres of grass. Now one-on-one with the keeper, Bement utilized his blessed right foot to gift Chattanooga with their third score of the match. 

“It’s been a weird few months, and you’re limited to what you can and can’t do,” said Bement about how he sharpened his finishing skills during the hiatus. “Finishing is one thing you can control, whether or not there are people around or if you’re able to have contact. That was one thing I wanted to focus on, and luckily it paid off today.”

For the last portion of the game, there was no scoring, although Topher Marshall blew a possible scoring chance when he was in the open field and missed a shot with just the keeper to beat. However, there was little to complain about in the second half, which was defined by good defense and the occasional fireworks going off in the distance. However, there is still much the team can improve on before next week’s matchup.

“Defensively it was rough, with a lot of communication issues and switching and communicating issues,” said Dixon. “On the ball it was rough too. We scored three goals, but we weren’t good enough in possession, so that’s definitely something we need to keep building on and sharpening week after week.”

CFC has a week to sharpen up before they play Savannah Clovers FC of the UPSL next Saturday as part of the Independent Cup. Savannah Clovers lost their first cup match to Soda City FC 1-2. 

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