The Chattanooga Football Club opened some eyes nationally a couple of weeks ago when it dispatched the professional soccer club Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.
This evening's opponent will provide yet another level of competition. And a win really will kick it up a notch.
Chattanooga FC will host the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League in the third round of the Open Cup tonight at 7:30 at Finley Stadium. The winner will get to host Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
The CFC already has made history, as its 3-1 victory over the Hammerheads was the first by an amateur club over a professional team in the history of the nation's longest-running tournament.
Luke Winter had two goals against Wilmington and was named the player of the round.
"I'm proud of it," Winter said of the award, "but I wouldn't be anywhere close to scoring goals without the team. We won the game defensively, and if we didn't do that, I wouldn't have been considered."
The Atlanta Silverbacks play a possession style of soccer, with patient passing in the attack leading to opportunities on goal. It's a style that CFC coach Bill Elliott tries to implement with his club, and one he definitely likes to see on the pitch.
"As an outsider looking in, they operate at a bit of a higher level than Wilmington," Elliott said. "They do things at a higher level, and it's going to be a huge test for us."
His club has had a couple of weeks to revel and enjoy the recognition that has come with its big win, but CFC also has played three matches since then. It is coming off two tough games on the road, losing at New Orleans and then defeating Pensacola City. The matches took their toll with injuries that have Elliott concerned.
"We have some injuries, but we've been able to find some combinations of players that work that we didn't know existed before, so there's been some good and some bad with that," Elliott said. "We have a couple of injuries that I'm worried about, but who knows? Maybe they do, too."
Winter believes his club stands a good chance of pulling out another win and advancing even further in the tournament.
"We have to take our chances, for sure," Winter said. "There's no reason that we can't win, so I'm excited and looking forward to it."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.