Chris Ochieng scored two goals in a 10-minute span midway through the second half and the Chattanooga Football Club defeated the Indiana Fire 3-0 on Saturday to advance to the National Premier Soccer League national final for the second year in a row.
Chattanooga FC will face the New York Cosmos B, who defeated CD Aguiluchos USA 5-2 in the other semifinal, next weekend at a site to be determined. The New York squad has the right to host due to its higher seeding.
The local club set an attendance record of 9,236 Saturday night, breaking the record of 8,878 set in winning last season's national semifinal.
"What an atmosphere. What an atmosphere!" CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "We have the players that have a good mentality to grind at the match. They love to play and can play a pretty brand of soccer, but they can also grind it out. It's what we have to do for 60 minutes, but once we get that goal, we're a tough team to play against because once you start taking chances, we have some guys that can punish you."
Ochieng didn't really have to work hard to score either of his goals. In the 69th minute, CFC countered an Indiana attack and Jose Ferraz sent a cross to the six-year CFC veteran, who only had to touch the ball into the net for the goal.
"Once we got the lead, everything became more clear," Ferraz said. "We became more relaxed, saw the spaces and where the other team was struggling. We were able to find passes and even score two more goals."
A few minutes later, Luis Trude had a breakaway and fired a shot that was deflected by Fire goalkeeper Cody Schweitzer. Again, Ochieng was there to touch the ball into the net for the two-goal advantage.
Trude did get a goal in the 90th minute.
There is a small possibility that Chattanooga will be the host site for the championship match. Last year CFC had to travel to New York to face the Red Bulls' U-23 club and lost 3-1. As it stands, the path between CFC and its first national championship will be yet another trip up north.
"We've put ourselves in this position again, and we need to bring it back this time," Ochieng said. "It was our plan the whole year to be here, but we have to win next week. I've been here for six seasons, and that's a long time to play for a team without a national championship, but we need to take the next step so that the next group will know that's the standard here for us and they won't take anything for granted."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.