For at least the next week, the Chattanooga Red Wolves can put the struggles they've dealt with early this season behind them.
The sense of urgency coach Jimmy Obleda said his players lacked in finishing opportunities during recent games? That didn't seem to be the case in a home match against the New England Revolution II on Saturday afternoon, when the Red Wolves scored three goals in the first half (they had scored six total goals in the first five matches).
The scoring advantage might have tempted Chattanooga to take its collective foot off the pedal on either end of the field in the second half, but the Red Wolves didn't, with Steven Beattie supplying a late goal for the hosts in East Ridge as they held the Revolution without a shot on target.
Before Saturday's match, five of the Red Wolves' six goals this year were by Greg Hurst. He contributed to Saturday's stat sheet, but it came by virtue of an assist to Marky Hernandez, who scored two goals. Ricardo Zacarias netted his first shot of the season for the other goal.
The end result was a 4-0 final at CHI Memorial Stadium as the Red Wolves improved to 2-2-2 overall and 2-0-1 at home in the 16-game regular season. Chattanooga had not scored more than two goals in a match this season, reaching that total twice — and both of those finished as draws, July 25 in the season opener at South Georgia Tormenta FC and Aug. 8 at reigning league champion North Texas SC.
Just seven days before rolling past the Revolution, the Red Wolves gave up two goals late in a 2-1 home loss to Tormenta.
"Last week really hit us hard," Obleda said. "The results that we didn't expect kind of humbled us a little bit, and we had to go back to the grassroots of what we needed to do, which was defend better and score goals."
If finishing scoring opportunities was something Obleda was looking for, he got that as Chattanooga scored on four of seven shots on target. Was it improvement or was it New England, which is 1-3-2 and sits last in the 11-team league?
Either way, the Red Wolves will try to take the momentum of their success with them as they play their next two matches on the road, against Florida's Fort Lauderdale CF on Saturday, Sept. 5, and against New England on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Their next home match is at 1 p.m. on Sept. 12 as the Richmond Kickers visit.
If the Red Wolves can continue to cultivate scoring options aside from Hurst in the second half of the season, they'll have a chance to move upward in the standings in their pursuit of one of the top two seeds in the league. With only a championship game beyond the USL League One regular season this year, there is little margin for error for Chattanooga or anyone else.
"We're all ready to take our chances," Hurst said. "We needed a game like this where we got three or four good chances and finished them all. I'm not going to get a chance in every single game, so I'm glad when I can put one on Marky and he can finish it."