The Chattanooga Football Club wasn’t the best of hosts Friday night.
At least not to its opponent.
The local team scored three first-half goals against Nashville FC and advanced to the championship match of the National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference playoffs with a 6-1 win in front of more than 3,000 fans at Finley Stadium.
Chattanooga FC (9-2-2) will face the New Orleans Jesters (7-2-2), who defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves 4-1 in the other semifinal, tonight at 7:30.
“We knew all the teams in the tournament are good, but we’d played Nashville two times before, so the guys were confident,” CFC coach Bill Elliott said. “Finley’s a tough place to play [for visitors]. You have the Chattahooligans cheering, and they really get behind us. When we get on top, it’s tough to fight back.”
The attack was steady Friday, as was the defense. CFC goalkeeper Greg Hartley had a great match in goal, finishing with nine saves — including stops in the 28th and 32nd minutes that seemed near impossible at the time.
“We really wanted to treat it like any other game — mentally and physically,” said midfielder John Carrier, who scored the first goal. “We realized the stakes that were there with the year we’ve had, and we went out and took care of business.”
Injuries have slowed Carrier the past few weeks, so it was a welcome sight when he scored in the 14th minute.
“I haven’t been myself lately,” he said. “I’m nearly back to being 100 percent, and to get a goal finally provided some great emotions.”
His goal was followed shortly by another one — in the 21st minute by Niall McCabe. Hartley’s stops in the next 10 minutes fueled the home crowd, which in turn fueled the players, who added another goal by Luis Trude in the 40th minute.
Luke Winter had a nice cross that was finished off by Sias Reyneke in the 55th minute, then scored off a nice pass from Leo De Smedt in the 66th.
Nashville’s Kevin Tikhomiro scored off a set piece in the 83rd minute to prevent the shutout, but John “Snoopy” Davidson scored for the second straight week on De Smedt’s second assist in the final moments.
CFC and the Jesters have split meetings this season – each winning on its home turf. New Orleans edged CFC 3-2 on May 24, but Chattanooga won 3-0 two weeks ago.
“New Orleans is a great team,” Elliott said. “The last time we faced them, they had played the night before, so we know the scoreline of the game was no reflection of their ability.
“We know whoever comes out of this match with a win is capable of making a run at this whole thing.”
Reece Wilson had two goals, and the Jesters scored three times in the second half against the Silverbacks Reserves
Wilson scored in the 25th minute to give the Jesters a 1-0 edge, but Mario Neto tied the match going into halftime with a goal during stoppage time. Jordan Rice put the Jesters back on top in the 68th minute, and Wilson scored on a penalty kick and Jordan Hulme helped put the match away.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.