Greg Hartley was modest after Saturday night's game, saying the Chattanooga Football Club won as a team and he couldn't have done what he did in the National Premier Soccer League South Conference semifinals without them.
That's true, yes, and teammates Jose Ferraz, Andy Stewart and Thibault Charmey did make their penalty kicks at the end of overtime against the previously-unbeaten Tulsa Drillers in Tulsa, Okla., advancing to the South Conference title game next Saturday in Richmond. Va., against the RVA Football Club.
But few people in sports are ever more alone than a goalkeeper during penalty kicks. And not many keepers have done what Hartley did, which was stop three straight shots.
"It was a pretty amazing feat," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "You hope that your keeper saves one, you feel really lucky if he saves two and you never expect him to save three. That is just amazing."
Elliott said Hartley wasn't too busy in regulation and overtime, though he did make one "Wow" save. As the scoreless game moved to penalty kicks, Hartley, who has allowed just four goals all season, rose to the occasion.
"The guys did their jobs and scored, and I had to do my job and make saves," said Hartley, in his second season as CFC's starter. "Keep them out; we score three and it's over. It's probably the quickest PK shootout I've been involved in."
Tulsa came in as the scoring machine in the conference with 44 goal in 12 games, eight more than any other team. Seven times the Athletics scored three or more goals, including five games with five or more. But they never found the back of the net against CFC.
Chattanooga FC had more shots on goal overall, and nearly won the game late in overtime, but it wasn't until Ferraz, Stewart and Charmey connected on well placed shots into the corners, and Hartley got stops one, two and three, that CFC won. The allowed the players and coaches to make the long, 12-hour bus ride home with smiles on the players' faces.
"I've never seen a keeper save three penalties before in my life, so all of us were just kind of looking at each other like, that's just amazing," Stewart said. "You can't say anything else about it, it was just a brilliant performance. ... We said before the penalties, 'Boys, we've got to win this because we want to drive home happy.'"
With a win at Richmond, CFC will advance to the NPSL championships for the third time in the club's five seasons.
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