The Chattanooga Football Club's fourth season ended last July in San Diego with a loss in the National Premier Soccer League championship game. Year five for the local men's amateur side begins at 7:30 tonight at Finley Stadium.
Chattanooga FC opens with an NPSL Southeast division game against Rocket City United. Three days later, CFC plays a U.S. Open Cup first-round game in Greensboro, N.C., against the Carolina Dynamo of the USL Premier Development League.
"It's ready-set-go," general manager Sean McDaniel said. "Rocket City's been there since year one, and that's always a great battle."
McDaniel and CFC are hoping for a large turnout for the battle. Because it is the start of the fifth season, they want to see a crowd of around 5,000 at the game. One thing that might bring in the fans is the return of the food trucks to the stadium.
Local vendors set up shop in Finley during the first two seasons, and McDaniel said CFC was able to work out an agreement with the stadium for their return.
CFC, which went 8-2-3 last season, returns much of its 2012 roster, including starting goalkeeper Greg Hartley and defender Andy Stewart. Also returning after playing in another league last summer is forward Chris Ochieng, though he hasn't yet joined the club and will miss tonight's game.
Stewart and Fynn Glover, who have full-time jobs, won't be available for the Open Cup opener.
Due to commitments and injuries, CFC coach Bill Elliott had a hard time putting his preferred 11 on the field with any regularity last season. That was the case at the end of 2012, and despite it CFC reached the NPSL title game.
"We're starting with that [personnel] puzzle, once again, right where we left off last year," CFC's second-year coach said. "Hopefully success can start where it was last year."
In putting together this season's squad, building depth -- "and solid depth," McDaniel said -- was a top priority. That certainly is the case at keeper, where CFC is four deep, including Hartley and 2011 starter Thomas Hunter.
"That's always good," Hartley said of the depth. "When there's just one or two of you, you don't have that competition. With four you know you're going to get pushed in training all the time."
The new-look Southeast division of the South Conference includes returning teams CFC, Rocket City, the Knoxville Force and Mississippi Storm. Joining the division this season are the New Orleans Jesters and Gulfcoast (Fla.) Texans.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.