When the Chattanooga Football Club takes the field at Finley Stadium tonight, the men's soccer team will be trying to win, as always. But the stakes for this game are higher than for any that preceded it.
A Southeast Division title and a spot in the National Premier Soccer League South Conference playoffs are on the line.
In its regular-season finale against the New Orleans Jesters, CFC can lock up a second straight division title with a victory. A tie or a loss wouldn't automatically end the first-place and playoff hopes, but anything short of a win brings the second-place Gulf Coast Texans and third-place Rocket City United into the picture.
"I don't know a coach or a player that would not want to come down to the last game of the season with their destiny in their own hands," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "Everybody else is watching the results and needs help."
CFC (5-1-3) leads the Southeast with 18 points. The Texans (5-2-2), who wrap up their season today at home against Rocket City, have 17 points. Rocket City (4-2-2) has 14 points with two games remaining, meaning it could slide into the top spot with a pair of wins and a CFC loss or tie.
On Wednesday it looked like CFC was going to pick up three points when it led Rocket City 1-0 heading into stoppage time. But the United were able to find the back of the net late to earn the draw.
"That was an extremely disappointing finish," Elliott said. "It was a big emotional letdown because we knew we could have wrapped up the championship with a win."
CFC was without starting defender Nate Hodges due to a one-game suspension following a red card. Hodges will be back tonight, but CFC will be without two other starters, forward Chris Ochieng and defender Samuel Mansour, who are attending weddings.
In addition, a couple of players were banged up Wednesday and could be limited in tonight's game.
Mansour is back in France for his sister's wedding, but Elliott said he will return if CFC makes the playoffs.
For that to happen, CFC just needs a win over the Jesters, who lost 2-1 to Chattanooga in New Orleans on June 8.
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