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Chattanooga FC photo / Rod Underwood has been hired as Chattanooga Football Club's head coach and sporting director. He comes to CFC after working this season for Stumptown AC, a rival NISA team based near Charlotte, N.C.

The Chattanooga Football Club announced Friday that Rod Underwood will serve as the team's new head coach and sporting director in 2022.

Underwood was hired to replace Peter Fuller, who was 11-15-4 in National Independent Soccer Association competition in 2021, which included a 3-0 mark in the NISA Independent Cup. Fuller and the club mutually agreed to part ways on Nov. 21, after two seasons with Fuller in the lead role.

Freeman is an Atlanta native who became the first African-American soccer player at Furman in 1985, according to Chattanooga FC's release. CFC's announcement also noted he has managed at every level of the sport in the United States — including Major League Soccer — and has also worked with professional clubs in Jamaica and Sierra Leone.

He joins CFC from a rival NISA program, having spent this year as coach of Stumptown AC, which is based near Charlotte, North Carolina. Stumptown went 4-6-8 during the recently completed fall season and was 4-1-3 in the spring schedule.

"For me I saw Chattanooga as a big club in a league trying to develop and I wanted to be a part of it," Underwood said in the release. "Supporters groups like the Chattahooligans are paramount. They set soccer apart from any other sport in the world. Finley is a great stadium. It has a lot of character in a fantastic downtown location."

After his Furman career concluded, Underwood played with the New Mexico Chiles of the American Professional Soccer League as well as with the Albuquerque Geckos of the United Soccer League before spending time with the South Carolina Shamrocks. CFC described his role in each of those professional stops as "player-coach" and noted he won two USL championships, as an assistant for Sacramento Republic FC and as head coach of the Geckos.

"We're really excited to have Coach Underwood with the club," CFC managing director Jeremy Alumbaugh said in the release. "Throughout our search there were a few boxes that had to be checked and Rod checked them all. His teams are proactive, he's a fantastic communicator and he has a growth mindset, he's always trying to better himself and those around him. He has a commitment to the community that makes him a perfect fit. I think that fans will really love the style of play he employs and we're looking forward to the coming weeks ahead."

Underwood's oversight will include building the roster and planning in addition to coaching.

"We want to put some excitement in the game with a lot of attacking soccer," Underwood said in the release. "It's all about the ball. Possession based. Very aggressive, both with and without the ball. We want to dictate the tempo and dictate the ball. If someone is going to pay money to go watch a game, I want us to play a game that supporters will want to come watch."

Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.

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