The Chattanooga Football Club will defend its home stadium, affectionately known as "Fort Finley," at least one more time this year.
Late heroics from Juan Hernandez and Joao Costa helped Chattanooga FC beat the Georgia Revolution 2-0 in a National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference playoff semifinal Thursday night. The win secured another home game for top-seeded CFC in Saturday's final against the Atlanta Silverbacks.
The first half ended in a scoreless tie, but CFC (9-4-2) spent most of the 45 minutes on the attack. Costa and Felipe Olivera wreaked havoc on the visitors, especially down the left side. With pinpont crosses and blistering shots, the two strikers were a collective menace.
"We were creating a lot of chances, so we felt good," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "We felt like a goal could come any minute, but the key moment in the half was actually the save from Phil (D'Amico)."
That save came as the Georgia Revolution (5-7-3) got a break from defending in the final stages of the first half and created a few dangerous opportunities, including a long-range shot that D'Amico was nimbly able to fingertip over the crossbar.
"That was just a great save because he hadn't really seen the ball yet, since we had been keeping possession," Elliott said. "To be able to keep his mental focus and push that one over was huge for us."
Olivera and Costa along with Pierre Bocquet forced Wesley Sprague to make saves on the other end. Sprague ended the first half with four of them to keep the game level.
CFC started the second half where it left off, forcing the Revolution on their heels with more attacks, but physical play from the visitors disrupted CFC's rhythm and the backline got in the way of more passes in the box.
In the 73rd minute, the physical play caught up to the Revolution, giving Hernandez a free kick in a dangerous area. He took full advantage and tucked a beautiful strike into the top right corner past the outstretched keeper.
"We felt like we were in control and it was a matter of time," Hernandez said later. "It just happened to be a free kick. The goalkeeper was kind of cheating toward where I wanted to put it first, so I just saw the gap and put it there. This time, it went in."
It was a moment Hernandez had been working toward.
"It's no accident that ball found the back of the net," Elliott said. "I can't tell you how many times Juan has been out here by himself practicing his free kicks."
With a lead at last, the game settled back down for CFC, which started to build possession again. The shots did not come in bunches like before, but after nearly a whole game of hard work on the pitch, Costa got to seal the game.
Charlie Clarke slipped a perfect pass to Costa in stride to pull the keeper off his line, and Costa put it away with authority.
The Silverbacks defeated Asheville City SC in the other semifinal.
The CFC women's team, also top-seeded, plays its Women's Premier Soccer League South Region semifinal tonight at 7:30 in Finley Stadium against Pensacola FC.
Contact Idris Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org