The final 15 minutes of the Chattanooga Football Club's season didn't go the way the team wanted it to. CFC gave up a goal and lost 1-0 to FC Sonic on Sunday in the National Premier Soccer League championship game in San Diego.
In many ways 2012 was the most challenging of the CFC's four seasons, yet there the club was Sunday, playing in the NPSL title game for the second time in three years.
Chattanooga FC and Brian Crossman, the coach for the club's first three seasons, parted ways after the 2011 season and CFC hired Bill Elliott, a Hixson native who is the head coach at the University of West Florida.CFC also had a lot of roster turnover from previous seasons.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Conference took on a new look with more teams and new East and West divisions, as well as an added conference championship game to decide who would go to the NPSL final four.
"I think what was good this season was we had a completely new look, feel, team, coaching staff -- it was really a pretty significant change," general manager Sean McDaniel said. "So to be in the final with such a tremendous amount of transition was rewarding. It gives us a great foundation into next year."
The Southeast Conference expanded to eight teams in 2012 and could add a couple more next season, McDaniel said.
CFC lost its season opener to the Knoxville Force, 1-0, on May 5. It didn't lose to an NPSL opponent again until Sunday, finishing with a record of 8-2-3. The team excelled despite numerous players missing games due to injuries, work or other personal reasons.
Elliott said CFC had a different starting lineup in every game this summer, something he couldn't recall experiencing before in his coaching career.
"It got to the point where we just had to laugh about it," he said. "We always had to adjust to who we had available."
Prior to CFC's 1-0 win over the Georgia Revolution in the Southeast championship game on July 14, McDaniel invited Elliott to return as coach next season. Elliott agreed, pending the approval of his athletic director at UWF.
"We were happy with the job he did and look forward to having him again," McDaniel said.
By winning the Southeast, CFC automatically earned a spot in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup. McDaniel said the team likely will try to host at least a round, just as it did in 2011.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.