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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / The Chattanooga Red Wolves' Ricky Ruiz, with ball, has been one of USL League One's best midfielders this season. Ruiz will try to help the Red Wolves advance to the title match when they travel to the Greenville Triumph SC for a league semifinal Saturday night in South Carolina.

The 2021 season has already been a breakout campaign for Ricky Ruiz and the Chattanooga Red Wolves.

Their next mission is to continue that success and reach the final USL League One match of the year.

Ruiz, a 25-year-old midfielder, tied the third-year soccer league's record for most regular-season assists with 10, and he was also sensational as the Red Wolves made the first playoff match in club history a 2-1 overtime victory against North Texas in the quarterfinals.

Ruiz stole a pass deep in North Texas territory to set up Jonathan Ricketts' cross, which resulted in an own goal by the visitors in the seventh minute of last Saturday night's match at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge. Five minutes later, Ruiz got the job done defensively, sliding in front of Chattanooga's goal to deny a second look for North Texas after a free kick rebounded off the crossbar.

He also helped closed out the victory with a big play in the second 15-minute period of overtime.

Off a corner kick, Ruiz controlled the ball before sending it in to the middle of the box, where it bounced off defenders to Juan Galindrez. Despite being sat down by a defender, Galindrez controlled the ball on the ground and spun around to slide it in for a goal in the 113th minute, and it proved to be the winner.

Ruiz and Chattanooga defender Jason Ramos were both first-team selections for the all-league team announced this week, and Ramos is one of three finalists for defender of the year in the league.

The USL League One semifinals are Saturday, with the third-seeded Red Wolves (12-6-11) traveling to South Carolina to take on the second-seeded Greenville Triumph SC (12-7-9) at 7 p.m. at Legacy Early College. In the other semifinal, top-seeded Union Omaha (14-5-9)) — the runner-up to Greenville in 2020 — hosts fourth-seeded FC Tucson (11-10-7) at 5 p.m.

Both matches will be streamed on ESPN+.

Greenville, which had a bye last week, is the reigning USL League One champion and its hottest club with a nine-game undefeated streak (6-0-3) in which it has allowed only four goals. Triumph forward Marios Lomis (14 goals), an all-league first-team pick, could be a tough assignment for the Red Wolves' back line.

It will be the fifth Chattanooga-Greenville meeting of the year. The teams played to 1-1 ties in East Ridge on June 26 and July 24, the Red Wolves lost 1-0 on the road on Sept. 11 and the Oct. 23 match at Greenville was a scoreless draw.

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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / The Chattanooga Red Wolves' Juan Galindrez, left, and Jason Ramos (4) celebrate after Galindrez scored in the 113th minute of a 2-1 overtime win against North Texas SC last Saturday in East Ridge.

CFC closing out Finley schedule

In his second year with the Chattanooga Football Club, goalkeeper Alec Redington has played well down the stretch of the National Independent Soccer Association fall season.

Redington notched a career-high 11 saves in a 1-0 win over New Amsterdam FC on Oct. 23 at Finley Stadium, and he has allowed four goals over the past five matches. With just two dates remaining on Chattanooga FC's schedule, Redington and his teammates will try to finish strong.

CFC (5-9-2) is set to play its home finale against the Michigan Stars FC (5-5-6) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, then close the season against Stumptown AC at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 in Matthews, N.C. CFC, which is 2-3 over its past five matches, is eighth in the 10-team league standings with 17 points. The Stars are 1-2-2 over their past five matches but are fourth in the standings with 21 points — one ahead of Stumptown (4-4-8).

This will be the third meeting this year between CFC and Michigan; CFC won 2-1 at Finley on May 8, but Michigan won 2-1 on Oct. 17 at home.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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