Updated at 6:57 p.m. on Friday, March 8, 2019, with more information.
The Chattanooga Football Club is putting together the pieces of the puzzle for what it hopes to be a memorable 11th year of existence.
Determined to build a wall in front of the net, the soccer team has added recent collegiate star Nathaniel Bedai to the back line.
With a mixture of strong closing speed, aggressive slide-tackling and agile footwork, Bedai was the 2018 Southern States Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and earned NAIA All-American honorable mention. The Ghana native closed out his collegiate career helping the University of Mobile post seven shutouts and allow just 0.65 goals per game last season.
"Nathaniel is a very humble and hard-working guy," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "He is a no-nonsense defender who we think our fans will fall in love with. He likes to challenge people and tackle. He is simple with the ball and a very smart player."
Bedai is the first newcomer among CFC's nine players announced for the 2019 season.
"I am so thankful for this opportunity to share my love for God and the game of soccer with Chattanooga," the shutdown center back said. "The passion the fans here have lets you know you are playing for a family. I want to make them proud. I look forward to contributing to the club's continued progress and success."
The club will bring back familiar defenders Jordan Dunstan, Juan Sanchez and Soren Yuhaschek; goalkeeper Phil D'Amico; midfielders Juan Hernandez and Cameron Woodfin; and strikers Jose "Zeca" Ferraz and Felipe Oliveira.
"We expect in the coming days to sign as many as four to five players," Elliott said. "We will release those (names) as we make everything official. We certainly have made sure we are secure from the defensive areas. We also will be evaluating attacking players in our first exhibition along with taking some international trips to see some players."
CFC will hold an exhibition against Guatemalan power Communicaciones FC at Finley Stadium at 6 p.m. on March 23. CFC is excited about the season ahead as it opens the gates to fans who now own shares of the team, and the club will make its professional debut Aug. 10 in the inaugural NPSL Founders Cup.
The Founders Cup competition will include 10 teams across two regions and run from August to November. That will lead to a full league schedule in the spring to fall of 2020.
CFC is in the East Region along with Detroit City FC, Miami FC, Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent and the New York Cosmos. The West Region includes ASC San Diego, Cal FC, FC Arizona, Napa Valley 1839 FC and Oakland Roots.
"There's a lot of change going on, but the type we are excited about," Elliott said. "We want to keep growing the legacy that is CFC. We are excited about playing in the Founders Cup against some really exciting teams with great fan bases and history. The fact we get to play a longer season makes it all that much better, too."