Opening night went just right.
The Chattanooga Football Club topped Jacksonville United FC 2-0 before an announced crowd of 1,175 on Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Jacksonville United is a new entry in the National Premier Soccer League, while CFC won the NPSL Southeast Division as a second-year member in 2010.
“What a great night,” CFC manager Brian Crossman said. “When it started, they played like defending champions and treated us like new kids on the block.”
Yet Chattanooga shook off its jitters of playing before friends and family on the eve of Mother’s Day.
“It couldn’t have worked out better,” said Mark Beattie, who had an assist in the win. “I didn’t play last season, but this was excellent.”
Jacksonville United opened with momentum and fresh legs and controlled the first 20-25 minutes. Then Chattanooga settled in and began putting the visitors under sustained pressure, as Crossman’s game plan called for.
John Calderwood knocked a header off the crossbar at the 30-minute mark after a cross from Beattie. Russell Courtney missed a header on a corner-kick play about five minutes later as Chattanooga began maintaining more possession than Jacksonville.
Calderwood had a fastbreak shot saved a few minutes after that. Jose Roblez whiffed on a header 40 minutes in.
“We had some great chances,” Crossman said. “Then finally we broke through.”
At the 43-minute mark, Nick Chase stole a pass about 40 yards out and pitched ahead to Beattie, who found Calderwood undefended in front of the net. Calderwood did not miss from point-blank range a second time.
“We broke from back and Mark had a great one-touch to me,” said Calderwood, who played four seasons with Beattie at Shorter University. “I made a front-post run and scored.”
Chris Ochieng opened the second half with a shot that Jacksonville keeper Ian Levine had to smother.
But most of the action for the rest of the half was played in the midfield, as neither team mounted a severe scoring threat. But Levine did break up an attempt by Moises Drumond in the 83rd minute and barely deflected a blast by Irvin Espinal a minute later.
James Moore finally slipped a shot past Levine in extra time after streaking down the left side to within eight yards and flicking a left-footed shot into the far side of the net.
“He didn’t have much of an angle,” Crossman said. “I wish it would have come 20 minutes sooner.
“But it’s great to win at home, and it’s great to win the first game of the season.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...