On a busy night for sports in Chattanooga and going up against the Final Four, the Chattanooga Football Club and Detroit City FC proved to be a pretty good draw, and the CFC fans went home happy after seeing a 1-0 exhibition victory Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Markus Smarzoch's scorching goal from 35 yards out in the 52nd minute highlighted a strong offensive showing by CFC, which had most of the scoring chances in the match. The victory was the team's 100th of all time.
"It was a nice feeling," Smarzoch said of his score. "It was coming out of a long throw-in, and I just got it off my chest with one touch and I just smashed it. I had a good feeling (it was going in)."
CFC was the more dangerous side in the first half with Joao Costa having a couple of big shots on goal in the first 45 minutes and the team pushing forward for several other offensive opportunities. Strong play by Detroit goalkeeper Nate Steinwascher kept the game scoreless at halftime, but Chattanooga kept up the attack after the break, leading to Smarzoch's game-winner.
"We were pushing forward in the first half and got the ball in a lot of good areas but couldn't quite find the connections to finish the play," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "And that just comes with time to build the chemistry to create those kinds of moments.
"But we felt we could continue to press coming out of the halftime and find a goal, and we did."
Detroit City's biggest threat in the first half came on a free kick from just outside the box. Dave Edwardson's kick was on target, but Chattanooga goalkeeper Phil D'Amico punched the ball away to keep the game scoreless.
Saturday night's match in front of 4,129 fans was the first of three meetings between the two teams this season. In Founder's Cup play CFC will visit Detroit on Aug. 17, and the two teams will meet again at Finley Stadium on Oct. 5.
After his team took the lead, Elliot made several substitutions and CFC began playing more compactly on defense to protect the lead — and fended off a couple of Detroit City chances late. Even with his team in a more defensive posture, though, CFC's Caleb Cole just missed on a chance to get a second goal in the 86th minute of play.
"It's a great way to start the season," Elliott said. "I'm really excited about their performance tonight."