The fireworks that came after the Chattanooga Football Club men's match Friday evening resembled those that occurred within Finley Stadium for 90 minutes prior.
Niall McCabe scored two goals, and the hosts clinched the top seed heading into next week's National Premier Soccer League Southeast Division playoffs with a 5-1 win over Rocket City United in front of a crowd of 3,057 on a holiday Friday evening.
CFC (8-2-2, 7-1-2) will host Nashville FC in the Southeast Division semifinals July 11 at 8 at Finley. The Atlanta Silverback Reserves will face the New Orleans Jesters in the first match of the evening.
CFC head coach Bill Elliott substituted liberally in the home finale. It was going to be Rocket City's last match of the season regardless of the outcome, and they performed that way at times throughout the match. The home team came out focused, and quickly took control with goals by McCabe in minute No. 12 and No. 27.
"It was our last regular-season game, but we didn't want to step off because we knew had the playoffs next week so we wanted to be professional in our approach tonight," McCabe said. "We knew Rocket City would probably be weak because it was their last game of the year, but we didn't want to come out sluggish. We had good practices, and I'm really happy with our performance."
The two-goal advantage only grew as the match went on, and McCabe then found Sias Reyneke for a goal in the 47th minute. Rocket City got on the board in the 49th when Andrew Nkurunungi scored, but eight minutes later, James Moore sent a nice cross to Luke Winter, who scored in his first match back from injury to make it 4-1.
John "Snoopy" Davidson scored in the 81st minute for the final tally. He, along with midfielder Gustavo Tamayo, were players that Elliott singled out as reserves playing well on Friday but added that "all the guys that subbed on performed well."
"It was real easy to see that Rocket City wasn't playing for anything, and it would have been easy for the guys to take the game lightly and not put forth the effort, but they didn't," Elliott said. "They came out with a professional approach and were responsible for their roles and tasks.
"Everybody performed well enough to be in the mix for playing time next weekend."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.