The sound of the opening-day whistle has been long awaited by the Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club.
For standout attacker Steven Beattie and company, Saturday night's historic match against North Texas SC in Frisco, Texas, has the adrenaline flowing. The 7 p.m. EDT match will be carried online on ESPN+.
"You can train all you want, but nothing replicates the day of the game," the 30-year-old Irish midfielder/forward said. "The intensity has been up all week. No matter how old you get, you can never miss this feeling."
Voted in a league website poll as one of the favorites for the inaugural USL League One title — along with likewise experience-filled Forward Madison FC — the Red Wolves look to hit on their strengths right away.
Beattie is eager to lead the charge and get the ball rolling toward the goal of the MLS member FC Dallas affiliate.
The two-time NCAA Division II player of the year who keyed a national championship for Northern Kentucky in 2010 and helped Cork City to a League of Ireland Premier Division title in 2017 hopes Saturday night marks the beginning of another title run.
"As they say in boxing terms, you have to punch smart and not tire yourself out too quick," Beattie said. "We have some very experienced players who will help some of our younger guys. We like to play with high intensity and will come out going 100 miles an hour."
After posting draws in their final two preseason exhibitions against USL Championship clubs Atlanta United 2 and Louisville City FC, the Red Wolves are ready to get the show on the road after an intense week of game preparation.
"To play for the first three points ever in USL League One is exciting," coach Tim Hankinson said. "There will be a whole different level of intensity now. We have to channel our adrenaline into great football. We need our senior players to take the lead and help everyone play with a sense of calmness and confidence."
Although he hopes to win the 90-minute battle, Hankinson also looks forward to catching up with North Texas SC coach Eric Quill.
"I coached Eric when he was 18 and 19 in Major League Soccer and with Project 40," Hankinson said. "It makes me proud to see him as a young, up-and-coming coach. This is an exciting beginning for us all."