Summer 2015–NPSL Final
With the NPSL National Championship in my back yard, I had to check it out, so I made the short trip from Atlanta to the Scenic City, and during the drive I listened to the Bar Down Podcast with special guest El Conductor of the Chattahooligans. Their recap of each team’s road to the Final mentioned some interesting pieces of trivia—the Southern Champ has made the Final and won the last two times during odd years (Chattanooga was the South Champ and 2015 is an odd year) and the team hosting the Final has not lost in almost 10 years. But what really caught my attention was the fact that they were expecting a crowd between 15,000 and 20,000.
I arrived at Finley Stadium about 90 minutes before kickoff. After buying my ticket I wandered through the First Tennessee Pavilion to get a sense of the Chattahooligans tailgate. I complemented a fan wearing a Galatasaray jersey and he said, “Have you seen hers?” Turn around and there is a woman wearing a Fener shirt. “Are you too allowed to be this close?” I asked. “We’re married,” she replied.
From there, my walk took me around the stadium to the Southside Social. I was just looking for a beer and I wandered into a soccer themed Big Lebowski universe. Besides bowling, there was Ping Pong and billiards and corn hole and almost everyone was wearing Chattanooga FC gear or a replica shirt of their favorite team. Crazy.
By the time I got into the stadium, got a beer and checked things out, the seats were filling up quickly. The venue opened up the south stand, and as the starting lineups were announced, the crowd dwarfed anything I could have imagined. I figured the match would start with the home team on the front foot, fueled by the crowd. Wrong. The Cosmos B squad were composed, slick and ready for the challenge. Their possession did not turn into goal scoring threats but they were not overawed by the occasion. CFC kept the visitors at arm’s length and squandered two chances in the first half that would haunt them the rest of the night. Just before the interval, a scramble resulting from a free kick led to the opening goal for Cosmos B.
The second half started with the hosts looking for an equalizer, which came midway through the second period. Coach Bill Elliott turned to substitute Hernandez who provided energy for CFC. That set the stage for extra time and Ibrahim Diaby scored just seconds into the first overtime period. Silence in the stadium. The visitors then added another goal and it was 3-1 heading into the last 15 minutes. Chattanooga pulled one back, then hit the post minutes later. With one minute of added time Hartley thumped the ball 60 yards, which led to a flick on, which saw a CFC forward bear down on the keeper, but the shot was parried to the side and that was it.
A beautiful night for soccer. Great crowd (announced crowd of 18,227), the Chattahooligans were in fine voice, and the teams provided a wonderful spectacle. All credit to the organizations of both teams and the league. Long may this continue.
Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.