Chattanooga Red Wolves fullback Tony Walls scored his second goal of the season with a big header when his team needed it the most, and it led to a 2-1 win over Orlando City B in a USL League One match Saturday night at David Stanton Field.
The win keeps playoff hopes alive for the Red Wolves (9-8-9), who began a crucial three-match homestand to end the regular season and try to earn a spot in the top four of the standings. The Red Wolves entered play Saturday in sixth place but are within striking distance of Greenville Triumph SC in third and Forward Madison FC in fourth.
"It's win or go home for us at this point," said Walls, whose goal in the 54th minute was assisted by a long crossing pass from Josue Soto. "There wasn't really very much to say, and we know what's on the line. If we don't get three (standings) points tonight, we can pretty much just call it a wrap."
The first half began with a flurry of shots by the Red Wolves and a pair of shots on goal by Jonathan Caparelli that could have given them an early lead. After some back-and-forth play, Chattanooga opened the scoring in the 34th minute when Jose Sito Seoane's shot deflected off an Orlando City defender to put the hosts up 1-0.
But Orlando City (3-18-5) showed some fight despite having nine straight losses coming into the match. After several good chances were stopped by Red Wolves keeper Alex Mangels, Leonardo Da Silva Simas scored in extra time to make it 1-1 going into halftime.
During the break, interim Red Wolves head coach David Barrueta asked his team to step up its play on defense.
"In the second half, I think communication was key," said Barrueta, who has stepped in while head coach Tim Hankinson is away on a paid leave of absence that was announced Friday. "We just had to connect the dots together. I think there was just better communication in the second half. I think defensively you could see that."
In the second half, the Red Wolves began to push the ball forward and got more chances in the offensive end. Chattanooga outshot Orlando City B 10-1 in the second half, including a 5-0 advantage in shots on goal. That paid off in the 54th minute, when Soto got the ball on the left side of the box and sent the long cross to Walls on the far side, where he put his header past keeper Christian Herrera.
"It was one of those where you see it for so long and you're so open," Walls said. "Sometimes it goes over your head or you miss the target. But I saw the keeper coming over and I could see it was going to get to me, so I just waited and made sure I could get it on target, and it found the back of the net."
The game was chippy in the second half, when the officials issued six of the game's seven yellow cards. Orlando City's Simas and the Red Wolves' Leo Folla each was sent off with two yellow cards, and the match finished with 10 players on the field for each side.