Red Wolves give Brian Bement a chance to extend soccer career in Chattanooga

Brian Bement has spent enough time in Chattanooga to have a few favorite places.

Milk & Honey. Jack Brown's. The Feed. Dos Bros. Pizza Bros. Bement has had a lot of experience frequenting spots to eat in the city, having spent the past two seasons with the Chattanooga Football Club.

So when an opportunity arose this spring for him to leave his native Midwest and return to the Scenic City for a third year of professional soccer, Bement jumped at the opportunity - only this time he's wearing different colors, playing home matches in a different stadium and competing in a different league.

A recent workout with the Chattanooga Red Wolves (2-1-1, 2-0-1 USL League One) led to an opportunity to join the club, and Bement has played in all three of their league matches this season. The Red Wolves are set for their fourth USL League One contest when FC Tucson visits CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Bement's knowledge of Chattanooga actually started in 2019 - the Red Wolves' first year of existence - when he was a member of another USL League One team, Forward Madison FC. The Wisconsin club visited Chattanooga Christian School to face the Red Wolves, who played home matches there during their inaugural schedule.

A lot has changed since then.

"I remember the two times we were here in the city, I was thinking about how cool it was and how I like it here. And the next thing I know, I ended up here (with Chattanooga FC), and I'm glad I'm still here," said Bement, a midfielder/forward who was part of CFC's entry to the professional ranks in 2020 via the National Independent Soccer Association.

"To go from what the Red Wolves started with to now having this unbelievable stadium, it's only going to get better. We had a sold-out game in our home opener; you can't really ask for much more. You can see, even around the city the last couple of years, that the demand to come to games and tickets and the awareness of the club overall is on the rise."

Bement spoke of the rigorous training that exists in Red Wolves practices led by Jimmy Obleda, and the third-year head coach spoke highly of Bement, whose addition as a trial player - along with Moe Espinoza, who scored in last Saturday's 1-0 home win against Richmond - was announced by the club in late March.

Having barely scratched the surface of a 32-game regular season, Obleda knows he's going to need all the bodies possible once the schedule gets into the summer and fall. That's part of what makes Bement's addition so important.

"He's a great kid, a great person," Obleda said. "He wants to work and wants to contribute in any way possible. I mean, the first day out here he is already cool with all the guys, so it was very refreshing. Then you start seeing his work, his commitment to the team, his commitment to what is being asked, his commitment to the demands. It's not an easy place to come and train at and play at, and he was receptive to everything, even encouraging. You start thinking, 'This guy can be one of us.'

"Then, he's not a bad soccer player. He can score a couple goals, he gets himself in good positions, so then you have the whole package in a player and especially in a trial guy that came out that you weren't really sure what to expect. I couldn't be happier with Brian."

Fitting in is what Bement does, sort of like a chameleon blending in with his surroundings. The former Loyola University Chicago player fit into the Forward Madison culture, he fit while wearing the blue of Chattanooga FC and now he's making himself at home with the Red Wolves. But aside from his first season of professional soccer when his Puerto Rico Football Club team won the Copa Luis Vallarejo and played in the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship, he hasn't been on a contender yet.

He hopes that's changing this season, and the very early returns are promising. The Red Wolves head into the weekend alone atop the USL League One standings with seven points, three ahead of a quartet that includes North Carolina and Richmond - the two teams Chattanooga has beaten.

"I came here to win a championship," Bement said. I think there's no reason why we can't win both the regular season and the overall championship. Personally, I just want to do whatever I can, whether that be goals or assists.

"I just want to do the dirty work in order to make a championship possible."

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.