Despite playing a man down for 33 minutes in the first half in near-100-degree heat, the Chattanooga Red Wolves kept alive an undefeated streak at David Stanton Field with a 1-1 draw Saturday night against Lansing Ignite FC.
The Red Wolves' Tony Walls sent in the equalizer in the 55th minute as he outfought a defender in the air to send a header into the left side of the net off a well-placed corner kick from Ami Pineda. It was Pineda's third assist in four games and Walls' first score of the season.
"We stayed with it in the heat down a man and really take pride playing on our home turf," said Walls, whose play at right back has translated well on both sides of the field of late. "We have been down before, and we are resilient."
Walls has been impressed with Pineda's ability to set up crucial scores since becoming a fixture in the starting 11 six matches ago. The Red Wolves (6-4-4) remain third in the USL League One standings and have had great success on converting corner kicks this season.
"Our set pieces have been quality balls all season, it seems," Walls said after helping improve Chattanooga's home record to 5-0-3. "Ami played a great ball, and there was enough pace on it that I just needed to get it on target. Last game I hit the post and had one back post I probably should have scored, so I was hungry to finish."
With forward Yaya Cisse drawing a red card in the 11th minute for a hard slide tackle, Chattanooga was behind the 8-ball even more after a great athletic display by Lansing's Elma N'For in the 24th.
N'For corralled a pass with heat at the top of the box and while losing his balance was able to slide and tap in a goal just past Chattanooga keeper Alex Mangels for a 1-0 lead.
However, a Lansing red card for a head butt in the 44th minute evened the playing field at 10 on 10 and provided hope for the home team.
"At halftime we said this is something we can overcome," Chattanooga coach Tim Hankinson said. "The guys started to believe they could get it back. Tony found a gap and we had a great service. We also had better possession in the last 15 minutes but did not get consistent enough service to get the win."
Red Wolves defender Nicholas Amponsah continued his stellar play as he slid to clear a dangerous pass into the box and headed away a shot on target in the second half.
The league leader in saves was stout once again as Mangels high-pointed corner kicks and also made a diving stop off a header from N'For destined for the right side of the net. The Michigan team scored off a loose ball right after that, in the 67th minute, but was just offside and the goal didn't count.
The Red Wolves' Josue Soto nearly connected with Eamon Zayed in the 92nd minute on a cross.
Chattanooga's 22 points stand behind North Texas' 29 and South Georgia Tormenta's 25, while Lansing Ignite is 5-5-6 with 21 points and sits in the fourth and final playoff spot as of now.
"Despite losing Yaya, who was important to our strategy to win this game, we hung in," Hankinson said. "Our guys battled, and it was great to see Tony show that desire to get on the end of things to save that point for us."
The Red Wolves will travel to Orlando City B for a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday match and then travel the next day to Wisconsin to face Forward Madison FC at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday.