On a stormy Saturday night at Finley Stadium, the Chattanooga Football Club slogged through two lengthy weather delays to get its first point in National Premier Soccer League Members Cup action with a 1-1 draw against Michigan Stars FC.
Chattanooga FC dominated play, making the final result a disappointing outcome for a team desperately wanting a win in Members Cup play. According to statistics kept by the hosts of "The 423 SoccerPod" podcast, CFC had a 9-4 advantage in shots and a 4-2 advantage in shots on goal against the Stars, and the home team had six corner-kick opportunities to none for the visitors.
"It's a struggle right now," CFC associate head coach Peter Fuller said after the match. "We're struggling to create good chances to score goals, and when we're getting those chances we're facing a good goalkeeper or hitting the crossbar. It's a bad patch, and if you've been in it long enough you go through these times. But it's real frustrating."
The Stars struck early with a goal in the seventh minute, when Steven Juncaj collected a deflection off CFC goalkeeper Philip D'Amico and put the ball in the open net.
Then the storms came. The first stoppage came in the 16th minute, as lightning moved into the Chattanooga area and forced the officials to clear the field. After play resumed, heavy rainfall moved over Finley Stadium and CFC increased its pressure on offense.
In the 22nd minute, CFC had three amazing chances on goal but couldn't connect. Finally, in the 25th minute, Joao Costa used his speed to catch a Michigan defender unaware and score an equalizing goal.
"The first weather break came at a really great time, because we were struggling," Fuller said. "We were flat as a pancake out of the locker room. But that second 20 minutes that we played, I thought we were really good and it was maybe our best portion of the game."
The storms returned in the 36th minute, forcing another long stoppage of play. The weather delays halted action for almost two hours, and many fans left before the final whistle.
After play resumed and a five-minute halftime break, play went back and forth with both teams having chances to take the lead. CFC had more and better chances but struggled to finish on scoring opportunities. The Michigan Stars had most of their opportunities on counterattacks, but the CFC defense was able to keep the visitors from reclaiming the lead.
In the 77th minute, CFC had its best chance for a game winner when Caleb Cole sent a beautiful feed to Zeca Ferraz in front of goal, but his header hit off the crossbar and the match ended with the score level.
The draw secured the first points for both teams in Members Cup play. Saturday's match was the first of the competition for the Stars, and CFC was able to get a point in the table after losses to New York Cosmos B and Detroit City FC in the inaugural series.
CFC will resume Members Cup play Sept. 1 in California against Napa Valley 1839 FC. CFC also will visit the Milwaukee Torrent on Sept. 7 before hosting Napa Valley on Sept. 14.
"We've got to keep competing," Fuller said. "It's always hard when you aren't getting results, and it's not like we aren't working hard.
"We've got to keep believing in ourselves as individuals, and we've got to trust each other."