published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club opening season with roster in flux

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    Chris Lavie passes the ball to a teammate during a Chattanooga Football Club practice in Finley Stadium.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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Chattanooga Football Club coach Bill Elliott might want to consider issuing name tags for his 2014 men's soccer team. Or at least have a meet-and-greet or put names on the backs of their jerseys.

It'll definitely be a new look this season.

The entire back line is gone from a team that lost in the the National Premier Soccer League South Region championship match a year ago. New guys have been floating around practices in preparation, and some others will arrive in the coming weeks. Chattanooga FC has yet to have practiced with a full roster, which won't be complete when the team takes the pitch for its season opener against the Georgia Revolution in Conyers, Ga., this evening at 7:30.

"It's going to be different than it has looked the past couple of years," Elliott said at midweek. "I don't know myself what it's going to look like, but when you lose your entire back line that's anchored the team for two years, it's going to look different for sure."

Greg Hartley, the 2013 goalkeeper, hasn't practiced yet and will be meeting the team in Atlanta today, which could open an opportunity for former Lee University standout Thomas Halsall to earn some time in goal.

Yet John Carrier, an attacking midfielder who is one of the holdovers, isn't concerned at all by the turnover. He played collegiately at Tennessee Wesleyan and now is an assistant coach at NCAA Division III member Huntingdon.

"The last two years, Bill's boys were unbelievable players. I trust that he will bring in a back line to do the job," Carrier said. "Our attack's got to do what they've go to do, but we've scored goals most every game and we believe that the defense will be there."

Due to his coaching schedule, Carrier hasn't been able to train like he did as a college athlete, so he's been taking the time to work himself into shape with the ball at his feet again.

"It's difficult to motivate myself to get fit," he said. "You have these college boys that train in season, but for me, I'm by myself. I still try to get as many touches on the ball as I can, but I'm caught between coaching and playing and can't just jump in and pick the tempo up."

Chris Lavie, a center back who will be competing for one of the vacant slots, is one of the CFC newcomers. He is a rising junior for Division III Saint Leo.

"From what I know, the objectives are clear: We want to win all of the games, go to the playoffs and win a national title," Lavie said. "That makes me motivated to be prepared and ready to do the job. I know probably six or seven of the players, and I think we have a really good group and I'm really excited to start the season."

Elliott said Thursday's practice was going to be spent going over the "absolute, essential elements" of the team's tactical attack and what the players would need to know for tonight's game, but he added that "we won't have a chance to practice it."

"We're going to walk through it and basically say, 'Here it is. Good luck Saturday, gentlemen," Elliott said with a laugh. "It's going to be fun, though. As a coach, it's scary because you want results, but when there's turnover -- particularly on the defending side -- it makes you nervous. But it's also exciting when new players take on bigger roles. Some struggle, but quite a few do well, and that's fun to witness."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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