Despite playing a man down for the final 25 minutes, the Chattanooga Football Club scored in the final minute to edge Inter Nashville FC 2-1 in their National Premier Soccer League Southeast match Saturday night at Finley Stadium.
The winning goal came on a free kick from Danny Reynolds.
Chattanooga FC (3-2-4) hosts the Birmingham Hammers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
During the 65th minute Saturday, the home team had its on-field lineup reduced to 10 players on a controversial red card.
At midfield, a Nashville player fell to the ground while continuing to play the ball. A whistle wasn't blown and Chattanooga's Daniel Whitehall tried to kick the ball out but kicked the downed player instead. This resulted in Whitehall's red card.
CFC coach Bill Elliott said later that if the referee had blown his whistle earlier, the incident would not have happened.
"What I was upset about was that the player was on the ground and was playing the ball, which should be whistled a dangerous play and an indirect free kick for us," Elliott said. "Instead, the referee didn't blow the whistle, he let play continue and then our guy kicked out at him, which arguably was a red card."
Then down a man on the field for the rest of the match, Elliott said the team had a decision to make as to how it was going to continue the game mentally and strategically.
"With the adversity and the tide against us with the red card that was given, it would have been easy to just sit back and try to hold on or, even worse, end up conceding," Elliott said. "As a coaching staff and with the players on the field, we had the mentality that we wanted to go for the win, and I think it was that mentality that put us in the position (for the victory)."
And in the 90th minute, Chattanooga had a couple of chances to break the 1-1 tie.
Back-to-back yellow cards given to different Nashville players in that final minute provided two free-kick opportunities, and on the second one CFC took the 2-1 lead with Reynolds' shot in the top right corner of the net.
"As soon as we got the foul I just felt good enough to take it," Reynolds said. "I hit it well, but more importantly we got the free point and that's what we needed."
And for Elliott, there could not have been a nicer finish on the ball.
"Danny stepped up," the coach said. "It was an absolute, perfect shot right in the corner. You can't beat it."
CFC players believe they still are the front-runners in the conference.
"It was a very big win, but we still consider ourselves the favorites," Reynolds said. "We are still playing the best football, we are still the best team in the conference, but our results need to show that."
Contact Tori McElhaney at firstname.lastname@example.org