Chris Ochieng finally ended the drought, sending the Chattanooga Football Club into the main draw of the U.S. Open Cup.
Ochieng’s goal late in overtime Sunday night lifted Chattanooga FC to an exhausting, intense 1-0 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves at Finley Stadium.
With a spot in the U.S. Open Cup first round on the line, the teams were still looking for their first goal after more than 115 minutes of play. Players for both sides were cramping, and with so much at stake, tensions were high.
Ochieng played every minute — more than 120 by game’s end — and finally broke the tie with a volley goal with his left leg offer a header pass from Russell Courtney. The ball softly, CFC coach Brian Crossman said it took “forever,” went from Ochieng’s neon-yellow cleat past Silverbacks goalkeeper Eric Ati in the 26th minute of the 30-minute overtime.
“That was one of the best moments of my life, maybe,” the Kenyan said, moments before being dunked with a cooler full of water.
Goalkeeper Thomas Hunter and the rest of CFC had to sweat out the final few minutes of overtime and were able to keet the shutout. Chattanooga FC general manager Sean McDaniel said qualifying for the Cup is a big step for the third-year club.
“For us in our third year, this has quickly moved us from a local and regional level to a national spotlight,” he said.
Hunter was thoroughly tested the entire game and saved multiple quality shots on goal. Ati also stayed busy and neither team was able to find the back of the net through 115 minutes of play, plus injury time.
In the 21st minute, CFC’s Mark Sherrod had an excellent scoring opportunity when he took a pass from Ochieng and lined up his shot about 8 yards in front of the goal — only to send it through the uprights, well above the crossbar.
The Silverbacks sent a shot through the uprights shortly after, and both teams eventually went into the locker room at halftime without a goals but having had plenty of good chances.
The chances for both teams continued in the second half, as did the scoreless game. Hunter made a diving save in the 87th minute and CFC came up empty on a free kick from just outside the box at the end of regulation.
Before the winning goal, one of CFC’s highlights in overtime was forward Moises Drummond’s bicycle kick in the box. Like all the shots that preceded it that point, however, it didn’t find the goal.
Cup first-round matchups will be announced Tuesday.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...