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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Chattanooga Red Wolves midfielder and team captain Jose Carrera-Garcia walks off the field during halftime of Saturday's home game against Forward Madison FC at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge.

The Chattanooga Red Wolves prioritized bringing captain Jose Carrera-Garcia back for 2022.

Although this is Jimmy Obleda's third season as head coach of the USL League One team, the Red Wolves wanted the stability of another strong link to last year's team, which went 11-6-11 in the regular season to earn a No. 3 seed in the playoffs before losing in the semifinals.

Some of the players from last season are no longer on the roster and others are battling injuries, so having a familiar face on the field is welcomed — and especially when it's a trustworthy midfielder with as much responsibility as Carrera-Garcia.

"He is essentially the quarterback of our team," Red Wolves general manager Sean McDaniel said recently. "He takes it from a defensive position and gets it into an attacking position, and for him to be the commander in chief in the middle of the field, to keep him on the pitch for us was priority No. 1 and critically, critically important."

The Red Wolves needed someone who, well, can handle Obleda. To understand what Obleda wants on the field and how to deal with his passion. One who realizes that when it comes to that passion towards his players, the passion he coaches with, the intention is usually good.

Who better than the captain?

"We have a coach that wants to win, no matter what," Carrera-Garcia said this past week. "He translates that to the team, so I think in every game, he's transmitted a winning mentality to us, and he's translated that level of soccer where he expects you to be 100% on everything. You know if you do one play wrong, he's going to be on you because he expects you to think freely, he wants you to be better.

"And every season, the results speak for itself."

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Chattanooga Red Wolves vs. Forward Madison FC on April 2, 2022

Obleda has had to learn some as well. When he took over the Red Wolves ahead of their second season in 2020, it was the former youth coach's first opportunity to lead a professional club, and Obleda and the organization have had to work to build the Red Wolves in his image.

What is that?

Tough, hungry, hard-nosed players, those who never quit, which showed in the Red Wolves scoring 11 goals in the 85th minute or later last season. Some of those players — including Juan Galindrez, the leading scorer last season — are currently unavailable to the club.

But there was a lot more turnover after the 2020 season, and yet the team improved and was a game away from the championship match. That will be the expectation again this season.

The schedule opened Saturday night with a 1-1 draw against Forward Madison FC at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge. Jimmie Villalobos scored in the 41st minute for the Red Wolves, but the visitors drew even in the 90th, and stoppage time ended without Chattanooga finding the net again.

The Red Wolves are on the road next Saturday against North Carolina FC before hosting the Richmond Kickers on April 16.

"Every year you learn a little bit more about the professional game," Obleda said ahead of the opener. "You learn what it takes to be successful with the team, what pieces you need. You learn that perhaps what you did the previous year, that doesn't work now. So from a tactical and technical standpoint, physical standpoint, mental standpoint, you kind of see what helped you have the success you did and, perhaps, what maybe kept you from being a little bit more successful."

Carrera-Garcia is basically Obleda's coach on the field. It's why the relationship works — and also why he's the captain of the team, a role he embraces.

"Last year, luckily, I was chosen to be the captain of the team, but we had a group of people that made it easy because the personalities were great and they were all winners," Carrera-Garcia said. "This year, I need to push the guys a little harder, I need to work to be the one that works the hardest, so they can feed off that energy.

"It's all about confidence, and coach gave me that confidence. I want to be the best midfielder and best teammate I can for my team."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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