Chattanooga FC avoids home loss with late goal

Staff file photo by Patrick MacCoon / Chattanooga FC's Lenny Lopez, second from left, scored the tying goal in the final minutes of Sunday's home draw against Gold Star FC Detroit.
Staff file photo by Patrick MacCoon / Chattanooga FC's Lenny Lopez, second from left, scored the tying goal in the final minutes of Sunday's home draw against Gold Star FC Detroit.

Lenny Lopez was in the right spot at the right time.

The Chattanooga Football Club striker followed a botched save attempt in close for the tying goal in the 89th minute of Sunday's 1-1 draw against Gold Star FC Detroit at Finley Stadium. The keeper's diving deflection went straight to the chest of Lopez, who then followed the ball in by charging toward the left post to beat another defender and tap in his score.

The late heroics saved first-place Chattanooga FC (12-1-7, 43 points) from a major upset in National Independent Soccer Association play.

Detroit (3-14-3), which entered in last place in the nine-team league standings, scored the first goal in the 79th minute off a misplay on the last line of defense for CFC that resulted in an open-net goal.

While CFC has made 2023 its best year as a professional club, coach Rod Underwood's team has endured its least successful stretch of the season lately with a win, a loss and three draws over its past five games. Sunday's match was the first for CFC since Sept. 10, with two postponements since then.

That leaves four matches still for CFC before the NISA playoffs: a visit to Georgia for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday against the Savannah Clovers, followed by a trip to Rochester, New York, to face the Flower City Union on Oct. 14, another match against Savannah on Oct. 21 — this one at Wildcat Stadium in Richmond Hill, Georgia — and the regular-season finale against Club de Lyon on Oct. 25 at Finley.

Postponements around the league due to illness and weather led to an extra week being added to the regular season for makeup dates, with the playoffs now set to begin the final weekend of October.

Compiled by Patrick MacCoon. Contact him at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.