When is a tie as good as a win? When you play more than 30 minutes of soccer a man down and hold on for a 0-0 final.
That's what the Chattanooga Football Club did Saturday night in a highly intense and contentious game against the Gulf Coast Texans. It was a game that had CFC coach Bill Elliott and Texans coach Felipe Lawall, as well as about a dozen players, chasing the officials following the final whistle.
"A tie keeps us in control of our own destiny, meaning two wins [next week] and there's nothing anyone can do," Elliott said, to stop CFC from winning the National Premier Soccer League Southeast division.
CFC (5-2-1) continues to lead the Southeast with 17 points, and the Texans (5-1-2) have 16. Each has two games left, against the Rocket City United and New Orleans Jesters.
What had Elliott, Lawall, the players and most of the announced crowd of 2,592 so riled up were one notable call, which led to CFC defender Nate Hodges getting a red card, and a bunch of no-calls in a very physical game.
After a scoreless first half, the major ruckus began in the 54th minute, when Hodges made a tackle at the edge of the box, drawing a yellow. He argued the call, got another yellow and was ejected with a red card. CFC goalkeeper Greg Hartley also received a yellow card for arguing with the referee.
Hartley eventually made a diving save on the ensuing free kick to keep the game scoreless.
"I think it kind of hit us that we have to sort our stuff out," Hartley said of the ejection and subsequent save. "All credit to the guys for the way they played after the red card."
Instead of packing the defense in and hoping for a tie, CFC raised its game and had more offensive attacks than the Texans. Jose Ferraz came in off the bench and put two good shots on goal. He went down after contact in the box on the first, but no foul was called.
Late in the game, CFC was nearly whistled for a tackle in the box, but the sideline judge raised his flag only to his waist before lowering it.
"Considering how poor the ref did and how things unfolded, a tie is the result we needed," Elliott said.
The Texans forced the issue in the first 10 minutes of the game and kept the CFC defense busy. Chattanooga supplied most of the pressure the rest of the half and had the best shots on goal. None was better than forward John Carrier's shot from the right side in the 31st minute.
Carrier was one-on-one with goalkeeper Carl Goody, who was able to get his body in front of Carrier's shot and make the save. Numerous CFC shots were deflected by Gulf Coast defenders in both halves.
CFC plays at Rocket City on Wednesday and hosts the Jesters on Saturday to close out the season.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.