Jimmy Obleda isn't one to hide his emotions.
Throughout this season, his first as coach of the Chattanooga Red Wolves, Obleda has worn his heart on his sleeve while instructing his soccer team during matches. That has bled onto the field, where his players compete with emotion and heart. It shows when they're able to put the ball through the net, which usually results in a dogpile of celebrating Red Wolves.
"You see the way we play and what the guys do, right?" Obleda said Saturday, moments after a 2-1 comeback win over the Richmond Kickers at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge. "You see the emotion in which they play. We live it a different way, so a goal is celebrated differently; a win is celebrated differently.
"We live the game. We are so passionate about it. We're so passionate about each other. We're passionate about the club and what we're doing here. So I think that's what separates us."
The win was what separated Chattanooga and Richmond in the USL League One standings, with the Red Wolves improving to 4-2-3 and gaining three points to move into third, swapping spots with the Kickers (4-2-2), whose unbeaten streak ended after five matches and kept them from adding to their 14 points.
Obleda's methods may be viewed as unorthodox, but the results have been working. After a slow start to their second season, the Red Wolves have earned at least a point in four straight matches, three of them victories.
With Chattanooga trailing Saturday after Emiliano Terzaghi's 13th-minute goal, Obleda made some personnel changes for his attack. Newly acquired forward Patrick Okonkwo started the second half, and right after that, Marky Hernandez — who has missed a couple of matches with injury — substituted in.
The latter's return led to a number of scoring opportunities, one of which was put away by Tanner Dieterich in the 54th minute. In extra time, Hernandez took a Ronaldo Pineda throw-in, then dribbled along the end line before crossing the ball into Steven Beattie, who finished the goal. Beattie then took his shirt off — prompting a yellow card — and ran over to celebrate with some of those in attendance.
"We feed off each other's energy," Beattie said. "From the head coach, assistants, to the boys on the bench, it's a tight-knit group we have here. Everyone's happy for each other, and you see the celebration at the end."
Now, with the regular season past its midpoint, Obleda's club has put itself in position to move into one of the valued top two spots for the league championship match. Chattanooga's next two matches are at home, too; at noon Tuesday against Union Omaha and at 1 p.m. next Saturday against the Greenville Triumph SC, the two teams the Red Wolves are looking up at in the league standings.
"We just keep getting better," Obleda said. "We just keep doing what we do, and I can't emphasize enough what an amazing group of guys it is. They love hanging out with each other, and they enjoy playing for each other. They enjoy the fans — we all do, we love it. We're truly blessed with this opportunity and to be giving the joy that we are to the fans.
"When Dieterich scored the first goal, you would have thought there were 100,000 people in the stadium how it roared, and then when (Beattie) gets the game winner, it's even louder than that. That's something you don't add water to; it's that the people feel it, they see it. So yeah, this is just going to keep moving forward."