Chattanooga Red Wolves SC defender Richard Dixon knew he had to give everything he had to finish out the season.
Despite his team missing out on the inaugural USL League One playoffs by just a handful of points, Dixon was a difference maker at center back in Saturday night's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC II.
Forward Madison FC clinched the final postseason spot earlier in the day with a win at Lansing Ignite FC, the No. 2 seed.
Dixon repeatedly turned away promising attacks as he laid out for the ball to help Chattanooga finish 8-1-5 overall at David Stanton Field. Only North Texas SC also had only one loss at home, and it is the top-seeded teams for the playoffs. Greenville Triumph SC is the No. 3 seed.
"You always have to respect the game, fans, your team and the opponent," said Dixon, who had four slide tackles Saturday. "Even though we knew we were knocked out of the playoffs, we had to show appreciation to the fans for coming out and supporting us this season. Being a pro is a mindset, and there is always something on the line to play for."
After being told by doctors that his season was over four games into it with a severe foot injury, Dixon fought through rehab and impressed those around him with his comeback for the first-year professional soccer team.
"We want to attract players and people like Richard. He is not just an outstanding player, but a great person," acting coach Dave Barrueta said. "This team battled to the finish this year, and for him to come back and play like he did for us in a crucial time says a lot about his drive."
Chattanooga (10-8-10) scored in the eighth minute as captain Tony Walls delivered a strike to the top of the box and Greg Hurst passed ahead to Sito Seoane, who sent a left-footed shot past the oncoming keeper to the back left corner of the net.
Toronto (9-10-9) did not equalize until the 85th minute as Jordan Perruzza scored his 15th goal of the season.
Red Wolves keeper Alex Mangels finished out a brilliant season with six saves, which included deflecting a blazing shot off a breakaway run in the first half along with winning a one-on-one matchup in close and diving to save the ball from going out of bounds.
Ending a roller-coaster season when road struggles were too much to overcome, the team looks forward to the future.
"It's been a long journey," Dixon said. "We have shown grit as a team, though. We are in this together for the long haul. It's a constant grind and process of getting better, and we will do what it takes next year to handle the marathon."