In the first of what Chattanooga Football Club general manager Sean McDaniel hopes will be many Major League Soccer exhibitions at Finley Stadium, the New England Revolution beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Sunday.
An announced crowd of 4,379 attended the game on a cloudy, cold and windy afternoon. Given the conditions, McDaniel said, it was a very good turnout.
"We're thrilled, and it just goes to show that Chattanooga loves its soccer," he said. "They show up when it's not ideal weather and they're great supporters of the game."
Soccer promoter Scott Spencer, who also brought the friendly between the U-20 national teams from Colombia and Mexico to Finley last November, said after the game that he was happy and the teams were happy.
"It was a good game, a nice crowd and I thought it was a great event," Spencer said.
Spencer said he's had two good experiences bringing games to Chattanooga and he hopes to bring more in the years to come.
After the game, the teams returned to Atlanta where later this week they will play two more preseason games in the Atlanta MLS Challenge at Kennesaw State University.
Columbus, which played at Finley in 1998 during the U.S. Open Cup, had the bulk of the scoring chances in the first half. But it was the Revolution that led 1-0 after Sainey Nyassi's shot in the 43rd minute was deflected and caromed into the back of the net.
The Revolution went up 2-0 in the 81st minute on Zack Schilawski's goal. The Crew got on the scoreboard in stoppage time when Tom Heinemann flicked a shot with the outside of his right foot by Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
McDaniel said CFC, which will begin its third season in May, is getting better at hosting games. He said the club is also trying to host some U.S. Open Cup games this summer.
Among the contingent at Sunday's game was a large group of players from the East Ridge Soccer Association. One of ERSA's coaches, Chris Gibson, volunteered at the game and said having two MLS teams in town was a great experience for the young players.
"It gives them somebody to look up to," he said. "I don't know how many of them now follow MLS soccer, but now they're going to have a reason to. It think it's inspiring to have this level [of teams] here."
Chattanooga FC opens its third season on May 13 at Atlanta FC and makes its home debut May 21 against the Knoxville Force.