The Chattanooga Football Club got a lead early in its South regional championship match Saturday night against the Tulsa Athletics at Finley Stadium. Then the home team defended.
And defended. And defended some more.
And because of how well Chattanooga FC did that, it lives to fight another day.
Luis Trude's goal in the fourth minute propelled Chattanooga to a 2-0 victory in front of 2,827 fans and a spot in the National Premier Soccer League semifinals next weekend at a site to be determined. The win was the third regional championship for the CFC, which was national runner-up in 2010 and 2012.
Tulsa (10-1-1) applied lots of pressure in its attack, from all angles. That backfired from the beginning, though, as after Chattanooga FC (12-2-2) cleared a corner kick, Trude made a 90-yard sprint and calmly pocketed a shot in the right corner of the net.
"I knew they weren't going to be able to catch me, but I really expected the defender to step toward me during the run," Trude said. "He hesitated, and I was able to get off a good shot."
The Athletics thought they had an early equalizer, when Akeil Barrett flicked a shot through the net, but a handball before the shot waved off the goal.
The visitors continued to apply loads of pressure, which led to more defense for CFC, but the back four of Wil Linder, Chris Lavie, Jordan Dunstan and James Moore, along with the midfielders, continually found themselves in the right place. Even if Tulsa had an open shot on goal, keeper Greg Hartley was there to turn it away.
"We worked hard in the training sessions and worked hard on the pitch," Dunstan said. "Tulsa was a great team. Their strikers kept moving, so it was hard to track them at point, but the communication we had and spoke about in our training really helped tonight.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling."
Added Trude: "Being able to win this match at home in front of the Chattahooligans just made this feeling even better."
In the 79th minute, Tulsa's offensive pressure was countered again, as Chris Ochieng found Luke Winter on a breakaway and the former Tennessee Wesleyan star scored for the two-goal edge.
Chattanooga FC, the highest-ranked team left in the playoffs, has put in a bid to host the national semifinals. It will find out early this week if it has been awarded that right.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.