It wasn't so much a beating as much as it was a healthy dismantling that the Chattanooga Football Club displayed Wednesday evening against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
The hosts kept their composure and took advantage of the opportunities that were provided, defeating the United Soccer League Professional Division team 3-1 in front of 1,502 fans at Finley Stadium in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. The win improves CFC to 2-0 in the early part of the year, and more importantly will increase their exposure as they advance past the first round of the Cup for the first time in program history.
They will host the Atlanta Silverbacks on May 28th in the next round of the nation's longest-running tournament.
Forward Luke Winter scored a pair of goals, while Luis Trude had two assists in his first match of the season.
"You always want to try and win your battles, but I think as a team, it's going to be hard to win those," Winter said. "From the start, we were linking over each other; we were looking for each other. I think we were the better team."
The frustration started to spill over for the Hammerheads, who finished the match with nine players after Jason Watson and Mickael Oliviera were issued red cards during the match.
"We had scouted them a little, and felt that if things didn't go their way early they might lose their heads," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "We told the guys it was important to keep their heads, stay composed and stay with 11 men. That's why they play the game. On paper they're professionals and we're amateurs so they're supposed to win, but that's why you play the game. It happens at all levels in all sports.
"Sometimes you get it right as coaches and players, and I think we did tonight."
Winter's first goal came in the 21st minute of the match on a nice feed from John Carrier on the right wing. CFC had two other solid opportunities prior to the half, but a shot attempt by Wil Linder sailed high and Wilmington keeper Matt Glaeser had a great kick save on an attempt by Leo De Smedt.
The Hammerheads (2-2-2) evened the match right before the half on a goal by Oliviera, assisted by Jordan Hamilton.
Watson's red card was issued right before the half, meaning the Hammerheads were already playing a man down the entire second half. That led to a number of opportunities from corners and attacks by CFC, and in the 62nd minute Winter had his second goal of the match.
The revamped defense held strong, limiting Wilmington to three shot attempts on goal for the match. Even as the visitors applied pressure in an attempt to even the score, they were turned away, which led to opportunities for the CFC attack. Trude had a breakaway in the 89th minute but was dragged down from behind by Oliviera, leading to his ejection.
With the match in hand, Trude then found Chris Ochieng for an insurance goal.
In his first action of the year, Greg Hartley had two saves in earning his first win.
"I think we looked good at times, but at the end of both halves I thought we looked tired," Elliott said. "Their pro fitness showed through at times, but considering the little time we had in training, I thought we executed. And the guys showed team spirit, played hard for each other and communicated and solved problems -- all things we ask for.
"There are some things we have to work on, and by no means are we a finished product, but it's a dang good start."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.