Chattanooga FC earned a comfy 2-0 win over Albion San Diego in front of 2,136 fans at Finley Stadium on Wednesday night. This was the largest midweek crowd since 2018 for soccer in Chattanooga.

First half goals from Markus Naglestad and Alex McGrath saw the boys in blue keep all three points in the midweek tussle.

Chattanooga FC entered the match unbeaten in league play, having picked up four wins and two draws. One of those wins came away at Albion San Diego, where the boys in blue blitzed the California outfit for five goals. Albion visited Chattanooga for the first game of a four match road trip.

Head coach Rod Underwood made only one change to the eleven that picked up three points in Rochester on the weekend. Beto Alvarenga replaced Lois Garcia Sosa in the midfield, joining an otherwise unrotated side.

Chattanooga started the match on the front foot, looking to overwhelm the Albion defense as they did in the reverse fixture. Markus Naglestad, Juan Louis, and Alex McGrath all came close to scoring within the first ten minutes.

As the San Diego defense began to figure things out, Chattanooga continued to possess in dangerous areas, keeping the ball in the opposition third for minutes at a time. 

Around the 25th minute, Albion began to push back, starting to get men forward and create their own chances. However, nothing bothered the Chattanooga defense, and this created more space for the boys in blue to operate in.

Possession turned into a goal for Chattanooga in the 35th minute. Alex McGrath rounded his defender and dribbled to the byline, floating a cross back across goal. “Once you beat your man, you’re confident that someone is going to be there. So, you take a look and just clip it and hope for the best.” 

Indeed, the league’s best striker Markus Naglestad was on hand to get a strong forehead to the ball, looping it into the top left corner. “I was able to separate myself from the centerback and had a little bit of space. It was the perfect ball that I just directed into the corner.” Chattanooga led 1-0 after 35 minutes.

After going down, the visitors became rushed trying to equalize before the half. Chattanooga continued calmly and took advantage of the Albion rush. A hurried restart in stoppage time was picked off by Alex McGrath, who dribbled into the box and slid the ball past Ben Roach into the back of the net. “I saw a bigger touch from the center back and you just sprint and hope for the best and try to predict where he’s going. I just took the ball off him, trying to get myself set and composed and just hit the target.” 

This was the final kick of the first half as Chattanooga took a 2-0 lead to the locker room.

The game was quieter in the second half with the odds firmly stacked in favor of the home side. While the boys in blue had a few good chances in the attack, the play of the half was made in defense in the 86th minute. Jean Antoine rushed off his line to make a crucial save but was unable to hold onto the ball. Albion’s Kadono brought down the ball and volleyed it towards the keeper-less goal. Chattanooga defender Ayden Bowers covered for his keeper, heading the ball off the goal line to preserve Chattanooga’s sixth clean sheet in seven matches. 

Captain Richard Dixon was voted man of the match for his performance in the midfield. His physical presence was crucial in nullifying the threat of Albion and anchoring the Chattanooga attack. Alex McGrath also put in an incredible performance with a goal and an assist, while Ayden Bower’s goal line clearance was as meaningful as a goal. Overall, the team put on an impressive performance.

Fans don’t have to wait long to return to Fort Finley. Chattanooga FC is hosting a double header featuring both the women’s and men’s sides this Saturday, May 27. The men host second place Maryland Bobcats.

“This game is really big but they’re at the advantage. They’re fresh. This will be our third game in eight days, that’ll make it a difficult game.”

Sports Director

Local 3 Sports Director Ben Bobick joined the Local 3 Sports team after two years on Florida’s Suncoast at SNN-TV in Sarasota, FL. After spending time as an MMJ and morning anchor in Sarasota, Ben is very pleased to finally follow his passion into sports.

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