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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Chattanooga FC goalkeeper Caroline Johnson reaches for the ball as an Alabama SC player hurdles her during Saturday's match at Finley Stadium.

The Chattanooga Football Club uses "Better Together" as a Twitter hashtag.

On Saturday, together meant the primary two clubs — one trending upward after a number of lean years, the other in the process of building from the bottom after starting over — playing back-to-back matches at Finley Stadium in a rare doubleheader.

The expectation is for the women's club to eventually get back into the top level of contention in the Women's Premier Soccer League after not having a team since 2018, when it won a conference championship.

The Chattanooga FC men won the Southeast Conference of the National Premier Soccer League in 2019, but they've been trying to find their way since moving to the professional ranks a year later with the National Independent Soccer Association. The support has been there, but the wins have been much harder to come by and the postseason success — a staple of CFC's time as an amateur team — hasn't been there yet.

Saturday's doubleheader — the women lost 2-1 to Alabama Soccer Club before the men defeated AC Syracuse 3-0 — was about promotion of the game but in many ways a normal game day, with spectators trickling in and out and the Chattahooligans fan group pounding their infamous drum.

"I think that's one thing that CFC supporters champion," said women's coach Randy Douglas, whose team fell to 1-3 and returns to competition with Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. home match against the Nashville Rhythm. "We owe it to at least play our tails off, so that much of it's good. Now, whether or not we were good with all our decisions, we can look at those and we can try to fix some stuff."

Douglas has noticed improvement since the season opener three weeks ago.

"We see the practice everyday," he said. "We see it from game to game, even though we didn't get the result today. I don't know what the expectations are in year one coming back, but mine was to be competitive, work our tails off and get respect."

Photo Gallery

Chattanooga FC women vs. Alabama SC on June 11, 2022

CFC men's coach Rod Underwood and his staff were sitting near the locker room and observing the women's match. The men's team has been highly visible during the women's relaunch, which is important because on the women's side, it feels a bit like 2009, when the men's team was formed and crowds weren't nearly what they've become now.

"The important part of it is that days like today grow the future of the game, because young girls now can look at the other older girls that are playing and say 'I have an opportunity,'" Underwood said. "It's all about access, right? Because without access, the game doesn't grow, and so these girls are given the opportunity for access to really let these young girls see that there's opportunity and that's really important access. We talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and all that starts with equal access."

Underwood has had his team clicking as of late, winning four consecutive matches and now sitting atop the NISA East Division with a 5-1-1 record, with their 16 points in the standings one more than Michigan Stars FC.

"We really haven't changed," Underwood said. "What we have done is, we evaluated games and we looked at where to put the guys in the best spots and tweaking, and the reality is most guys were in the same spot. It's just tweaking that spot.

"We're scoring goals because we're getting chances and playing with a bunch of confidence."

The CFC men are starting to regain the previous standard. It may take a while, but the women may soon join them.

And then they will truly be "Better Together."

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

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