After winning the National Premier Soccer League's Southeast Conference championship late Friday night, the Chattanooga Football Club has had some time to bask in its accomplishment.
The fourth-year club advanced to the NPSL Championships for the second time in three years and also qualified for the 2013 U.S. Open Cup. Chattanooga FC (7-1-3), the Southeast Western Division champions, did so by beating East champion Georgia Revolution 1-0 Friday at the RYSA Soccerplex in Conyers, Ga.
Luis Trude scored the game's only goal midway through the second half, but first-year coach Bill Elliott said it was the play of goalkeeper Greg Hartley that led CFC to the win and a spot in the championships later this month in San Diego.
"Definitely I think anybody who saw the match would say that Greg Hartley was the man of the match," Elliott said Sunday.
After a CFC tackle in the box earned the Revolution a penalty kick late in the first half, Hartley made a momentum-shifting save to keep the game scoreless. CFC was a different team after that, Elliott said.
"The guy took a good penalty kick and Greg made a fantastic play," he said. "There was definitely, right after that, a momentum shift in terms of possession and passing."
Goalkeepers don't save a high percentage of penalty kicks, so whenever they do those plays tend to be game-changers, Elliott said. Friday night was no different.
"A penalty kick missed is one thing, but a penalty kick saved by your keeper is huge," he said.
Trude's goal was about as impressive. He gathered the ball around mid field and dribbled his way through several defenders before sending a shot past the Revolution's Zachary Schultze. In the minutes right after the goal Hartley made several saves and kept the Revolution scoreless until the final whistle blew.
It was CFC's sixth shutout in 11 NPSL games this season. Chattanooga FC hasn't lost a league game since falling 1-0 at home to the Knoxville Force in the season opener on May 5.
The NPSL Championships are July 27-29, so CFC has some time to regroup and refocus before heading for the West Coast. Elliott said a couple of players might not be able to make the trip to San Diego for work or family reasons, but as of Sunday he wasn't sure who he would have available. He also didn't know who CFC's semifinal opponent would be.