The Chattanooga Football Club's season didn't have a magical ending - especially not for coach Bill Elliott - but the squad achieved much on the field and in the stands at Finley Stadium during its fifth season.
Chattanooga FC lost 1-0 to the RVA Football Club on Sunday night in the National Premier Soccer League South Conference championship game in Richmond, Va. CFC gave up a goal early in the second half and was never able to draw even, finishing the season with a record of 7-2-3 in NPSL play, plus an overtime loss on penalty kicks to the Carolina Dynamo in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.
In the stands at Finley, CFC averaged more 2,500 fans a game.
"The league's growing and has gotten better by leaps and bounds, and for us to still be first place [in the South East Division] and winning our first playoff game and making it to the final eight, I think it's a great accomplishment," Elliott said.
He arrived at the stadium Sunday night just in time for the final minutes of stoppage time. He flew up from Pensacola, Fla., where he was running his University of West Florida soccer camp all week, and his flight was delayed for several hours. He slept for a couple of hours before flying back to Pensacola.
In some ways his wacky trip symbolized CFC's season since for so many games there were either starters missing due to work or other commitments, or there was a bus misadventure on one of the many long road trips.
"I don't know if we'd know what to do if everything went smoothly," general manager Sean McDaniel joked.
McDaniel said It was a very good season all-around and the club very much wants Elliott to return. Elliott said he'd like to do so, though as he has before, he has to get the approval of his bosses at UWF.
CFC played with a veteran squad this season, including numerous players in their third or fourth season with the club. Many of those players have graduated from college and are in the work force, and how much longer they will play is unknown.
McDaniel and Elliott said they expect some changes in the lineup heading into next season, and changes might be needed to compete in a better NPSL.
"I don't think we have to totally revamp what we're doing," Elliott said. "I think we just have to add a little bit more athleticism to the team. That's the way the league's going."
There were 61 teams in the NPSL this season and McDaniel said he expects the league to grow by around 10 percent in 2014.
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