As far as first-ever matches go, most everything went the way the Chattanooga Football Club women's team would have both expected and liked. The home team outshot the opposing Mississippi Fuego FC and outplayed them for the better part of 90-plus minutes.
But in the end, one final shot left a nasty taste in their collective mouths.
Mississippi FC's Lisa Mann scored on a corner kick in the match's final seconds, and the visitors stole a 3-2 victory over CFC in front of a solid crowd in the team's opener at Finley Stadium.
Mann's shot was set up when CFC keeper Becca Toler mishandled a shot attempt in her direction with only seconds remaining in the match, setting up a corner kick. On the kick, Toler reached up to try and grab the ball, which was angling towards the goal, but the ball slid over her fingers and into the goal.
"I felt poorly for the girls because I felt they deserved a better result than that," CFC coach Patrick Winecoff said. "We gave up basically three goals in the air, and two of them we gifted. We should have done better, but on the other end of it, we had more chances than they did; we had more shots, more offensive opportunities, and really should have come away with more than two goals. If we score three or four goals like we probably should have, it doesn't get to the point where we're down 3-2 at the end."
CFC (0-1) outshot Mississippi 10-5. They dominated possession for most of the match outside of the first 15 minutes, which could have been attributed to nerves of the first-ever match. They looked impressive at times with their ability to create offense at a moment's notice, and showed alot of speed in their attack -- led by forward Nicki Gears and former Soddy-Daisy and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout Kelli Downs.
Gears, a rising senior at the University of West Alabama, had both goals for CFC.
"For the first game, I thought we did played really well," Gears said. "We had a lot of chances, but I thought we did well as a team in front of a fantastic atmosphere. We only had our whole team together this week, but I thought the intensity was high and we passed the ball around well and created a lot of chances."
Mississippi took the early lead on a goal by Danica Roberts in the fourth minute. The opportunities continued to pile up for CFC until Gears took a pass from Downs, won a battle against her defender, cut to the middle and drilled a shot with her left foot at the 23:35 mark of the match.
Chattanooga took a 2-1 edge on a nice header by Gears in the 48th minute, assisted by former Notre Dame standout Kris Cambron, and held that edge until the 66th minute, when Mann crossed a pass into Claudia Saucedo, who headed a shot in to tie it.
The teams seemed destined for a tie until Mann's shot in the final seconds.
Toler finished with a pair of saves in goal for CFC.
"We should have scored two immediate goals to start the second half," Winecoff said. "We didn't, and all that came back in the end to hurt us.
"We've got nine more games, and everybody's fairly optimistic and upbeat. On a different day, we're capable in the same goal of scoring 4-5 goals. It's not like we scored one goal on a penalty kick and were fortunate to be in it. It's the other end of it; they were fortunate we didn't score four or five. We were pretty threatening almost the entire match."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.