With what appears to be a schedule-friendly home portion of their 2020 slate, the Chattanooga Red Wolves are taking full advantage and inserting themselves into the USL League One championship conversation at the midway point of the year.
The Red Wolves controlled formerly second-place Union Omaha Tuesday, taking a 2-0 win at CHI Memorial Stadium and pinning a first loss of the season on the visitors. The win improved the Chattanooga team to 5-2-3 on the season, with its 18 points pushing them into second place in the standings.
The Chattanooga club is 4-0-1 in its past five games, and has an opportunity to close the gap between it and first-place Greenville Triumph when the two teams face off Saturday at CHI Memorial, the last of a big three-game home stand for the Red Wolves, who currently trail the Triumph by four points.
The top two teams at season's end will play for the League One title.
"Everything is so important in this race," midfielder Tanner Dietrich, who scored for the second straight match, said after the Red Wolves' 2-1 win over Richmond on Saturday. "When you're in it, you never really know how important each match is going to be, so you have to make the most of these opportunities, especially at home and I think the guys did an excellent job."
Dietrich's goal in the 62nd minute Tuesday created some breathing room between the Red Wolves and Union Omaha, as they'd been holding onto a one-goal advantage created by a Ricardo Zacarias goal for nearly 45 minutes. With the Chattanooga team defending feverishly and fending off a couple of near-goals by the visitors, Chattanooga head coach Jimmy Obleda changed the shape of his formation, imploring midfielder Marky Hernandez to move from the right wing more towards the middle of the field. Around that time a ball was cleared from the defense to Hernandez, who beat his defender and made a nice cross to Dietrich for the finish.
The win improves the Red Wolves to 4-1 on the season in Chattanooga.
"This is our house," Obleda said. "This is a place that not many people, if any clubs, have, and so this needs to be a special place for us and when teams come in it needs to be a place that they don't want to come and play, and we want to make it very difficult."
Alex Mangels was credited with a pair of saves for the Red Wolves, aided by the defensive quartet of Leo Follo, Jason Ramos, Jonathan Ricketts and Ricky Ruiz.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.