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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga FC's Richard Dixon, left, battles the Maryland Bobcats' Josselin Possian for the ball during a NISA match on March 26 at Finley Stadium. The same clubs will meet again there Saturday night.

Two professional soccer teams in two different leagues will make for one big night for the sport in Chattanooga this weekend.

The Chattanooga Football Club of the National Independent Soccer Association and the Chattanooga Red Wolves of USL League One will host Saturday matches with potential championship or playoff implications in the long run, and both are attempting to make the evening at their respective stadiums as lively as possible.

Chattanooga FC (9-2-3 overall, 8-1-3 NISA) is on a 10-match unbeaten streak that dates to late April and returns to competition for the first time since winning the Independent Cup Southeast championship in dramatic fashion on July 23. In its return to regular league play, East Division leader CFC (27 points) is back at Finley Stadium for a 7:30 kickoff against the third-place Maryland Bobcats (5-4-3, 18 points).

The Michigan Stars (6-2-5) are four points behind CFC, and the regular season continues through mid-October, so there is plenty of soccer to be played.

"Generally, I think we're in a good spot," first-year CFC coach Rod Underwood said. "It's about managing it and managing the expectations. It's much simpler playing in the front than chasing. We have to kind of work on that mindset and keep that focus — keep short-term goals and long-term goals about what we ultimately want to accomplish."

CFC will recognize more than 500 players from its youth academy at halftime Saturday, and fans are being asked to bring new backpacks and school supplies for students in need. In addition, the club will donate a portion of ticket sales to the Chattanooga Zoo, with fans able to interact with a few "friendly animals" as part of the game day experience.

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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / The Chattanooga Red Wolves' Aaron Lombardi takes a shot during a USL League One match against Northern Colorado on May 7 at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge.

Meanwhile, the Red Wolves started the week in the eighth position in USL League One, but four points by virtue of a win and a draw, both secured on the road, have Chattanooga in position for a potential home playoff match this fall.

Chattanooga hosts the first-place Greenville Triumph SC (9-5-5, 32 points) at 7:30 at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge. The Red Wolves (7-8-4) entered Friday fourth in the standings and in a three-way tie at 25 points, just two behind South Georgia Tormenta (7-5-6), with the Richmond Kickers (9-6-4, 31 points) in second.

The Red Wolves will have live music, frozen margaritas and tacos for what they're dubbing "Tacos and Tequila Night," and they'll try to extend a recent run of good play, with the club 2-0-2 in its past four matches.

The past three have been played without the direction of Jimmy Obleda, the team's third-year head coach who is serving an indefinite suspension levied by the league office as it investigates allegations of misconduct brought forth by the USL Players Association.

The suspension was announced two weeks ago, and former Baylor and Chattanooga Christian coach Jimmy Weekley has been in charge since, with a solid staff put in place by Obleda keeping things on track. The Red Wolves have also benefited from the return of some players from injuries, allowing the club — which has one of the highest payrolls in the league — to make a move up the standings with 2-plus months left on the schedule.

Now they'll try to avoid a regular-season sweep at the hands of the Triumph, who won 1-0 on April 29 in South Carolina and by the same score on May 28 in East Ridge.

"If we're going to peak, let's let it be in the second half of the year. Let's not peak early," general manager Sean McDaniel said. "I think we're seeing the benefits of players we signed that are now getting important minutes on the field. It's a lot more fun to win than it is to lose, and to now put ourselves on a trajectory towards not just being in the playoffs, but hosting the playoffs, is exactly where we expected to be."

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

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