If any incentive was needed beyond playing for a second straight conference championship, the Chattanooga Football Club could find it easily by glimpsing back to June 25.
Chattanooga FC compiled the best record in its distinguished history, going 9-0-1 in the National Premier Soccer League's Southeast Conference. The lone semi-blemish on an otherwise perfect league season was a 1-1 tie with Memphis, tonight's title opponent.
Even while resting some guys normally in the lineup, Chattanooga advanced to the championship match with a 5-0 thrashing of the fourth-seeded Knoxville Force, in front of a late-arriving crowd announced at 4,214.
"It was a game that we felt like we should win but you don't always. I told the guys I was proud of them because we went out and handled the game in a professional way," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "Now tomorrow is a whole different kettle of fish. Memphis is a very good team, and it will be a good test and a big challenge for us."
As for the tie late last month, Elliott actually brushed it aside, saying, "They're a good team, but it was a hot night that night and we were on the road playing on a field we're not used to. But we're not thinking about that so much as winning."
Memphis City, the No. 2 seed, shut out third-seeded New Orleans 3-0.
The CFC-Memphis match will begin at 7:30 tonight at Finley Stadium. In addition to the conference championship, the teams are playing for the right to advance to the NPSL's South regional.
Price of admission is $10 per person.
Memphis City, a first-year league participant, is 6-3-2 following its win over the Jesters.
Chattanooga forged a 2-0 lead Friday with two goals in the final 13 minutes of the first half.
Team scoring leader Luke Winter capitalized on a penalty kick at the 32-minute mark. The Knoxville keeper went to his left, and the Tennessee Wesleyan product also went to his left into a wide-open net.
Will Roberts boosted the lead and moved into second place in team scoring with a right-to-left header in front of the box with less than three minutes to go. He added his sixth goal of the season about seven minutes into the second half, driving straight down the gut off a lofting over-the-top assist from Winter.
It was the beginning of a rout and Elliott's string of substitutions.
"We're very blessed by having a deep lineup, and we were able to get some guys some rest tonight by getting them off early," the coach said, "but also some guys that were on the bench tonight will probably be on the field tomorrow night."
Off an assist by John Carrier, Samuel Goni boosted the lead to 4-0, and moments later James Aldred shot home his first goal of the season with an assist from Kieran Bywater.
While the offense obviously provided highlight fireworks, CFC got another tremendous showing from its defense, which has given up just three goals all season. Those defenders have posted shutouts in seven of their last eight matches.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.