The Chattanooga Dilemma Part One: Chattanooga FC

Learning Of The Rivalry And Teams

I was doing some analysis of the New England Revolution II’s match against the Chattanooga Red Wolves in USL League One on Twitter. It was a great night for Revs II against the Red Wolves, as they had been demolished 4-0 in their earlier meeting. CRW was absolutely peppering Joe Rice with shots. He ended up with eight saves during the game. Rice had topped the league in saves with 43 at that point! The next keeper down had 34 saves.

I decided to @ChattRedWolves, figuring it was a decent way to seem professional in my tweets. Recently, BelieveInBostonSports.com reached out to me to intern with them as a writer for the Revs on the whole. As I am currently in COVID-19 work drought, the obvious answer was yes. Unbeknownst to me, there is a rivalry in Chattanooga that just recently appeared out of thin air, or so I thought.

An adamant fan of Chattanooga FC decided to sent me a quick reply to my analysis that he felt I shouldn’t @ them at all. We ended up messaging about the issues that arose out of the Chattanooga Red Wolves existing. I heard him out and continued on my merry way. The reasoning behind both teams existing was fairly simple, but still troubling me. Directly after our conversations, I did a bit more research on the rivalry and ideals of both teams. Learning about these types of stories are what I live for in the soccer realms. It takes me back to reading The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. Although, this one has a bit more drama and has yet to pass.

Chattanooga FC, The Peoples’ Club (no, no, not Everton)

Chattanooga FC were founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2009. Tim Kelly, Krue Brock, Marshall Brock, Paul Rustand, Sean McDaniel, Daryl Heald, Hamilton Brock, Thomas Clark and Sheldon Grizzle were the co-founders. The team started out playing in the National Premier Soccer League(NPSL). The NPSL was in the seventh year of their existence. CFC ended up that year in the middle of the Southeast Division, with four wins, three losses and one draw. This didn’t earn them anything but the idea of staying power. That being said, they were one win out of the playoffs.

Quick Run Down Of Their Season Finishes:

  • 2009, played in the NPSL, 3rd in the Southeast Region, didn’t qualify for playoffs
  • 2010, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2011, played in the NPSL, 3rd in SE Region, didn’t qualify
  • 2012, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region-West, National Finals
  • 2013, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, South Regional Finals
  • 2014, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2015, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2016, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Semi-Finals
  • 2017, played in the NPSL, 2nd in SE Region-West, Southeast Quarterfinals
  • 2018, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region
  • 2019, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region
  • 2020, *played fall season of NISA, NISA Independent Cup, 1st in Group A of Fall Season, 1st in Independent Cup – Southeast.

*NISA seasons were shifted into Cups, and re-created to play more games due to COVID 19 outbreak.

As you can see, they were dominating the NPSL pretty handily and wanted to try their hand in NISA this year. Well, we all know that the Coronavirus pandemic hit and created issues all over. During the restart, they were able to start off in the NISA Fall Independent Cup, which they topped their region in July. After the Independent cup, they restarted with a Fall Season, which Chattanooga FC were the top place in the Eastern Conference. Directly after that, they headed into the NISA Fall Championship, which consisted of eight teams. They were second in Group B and ended up making their way to the NISA Fall Championship semi-finals. CFC was ousted by the now-USL Championship side Oakland Roots.

Attendance, Brand: a major difference

Attendance

The difference between the two teams currently is their attendance and their brand. If you just focus in on the Real Betis friendly, Chattanooga FC drew 6,115 fans for that game. On a normal game day in a season of the NPSL in 2019, CFC were pulling in on average around 2,500-3,000 fans. They hosted the NPSL National Championship where they drew the NPSL record for attendance, over 18,000 fans.

Whereas, the Chattanooga Red Wolves in 2019 had an average of around 1,600 for their entire 2019 season. The NPSL/NISA side CFC is clearly out performing them in ticket sales. The Chattanooga FC are wonderfully doing something right to exist this well beside a team trying to take over the market. Their fans are fervent and follow along as The Chattahooligans. The Chattahooligans are an amazing crew of supporters who have gotten behind their team completely, a good portion of the ‘Hooligans are the one’s who invested in the team during the WeFund.

Brand

Speaking on brands, CFC has built a great following on Twitter, amassing close to 14,000 followers since 2009. Their Facebook page is even bigger at 19,300 liking, 19,800 following around the same-time frame. It’s clear they’re are a force to be reckoned with in their social media game. They also managed to play La Liga’s Real Betis, MLS’ Atlanta United, and FC Dallas and Liga Nacional de Guatemala’s CSD Municipal. There’s no doubting the communications teams’ vigor for recruiting fans or even just love.

The Red Wolves are currently at 4,026 followers on Twitter and around 4,000 followers on Facebook as well. Since July 2018, while they have grown, it has yet to be seen whether they achieve the same height as CFC. They haven’t managed any high-profile friendlies yet at all.

Why The Rivalry?

Breaking it down to the ideals? Corporatism vs Localism. Chattanooga FC existed long before the Chattanooga Red Wolves were an idea. CFC has been putting people in the seats of Finley Stadium for 11 years now and doing a good job of it. This is a club that managed to get Real Betis to come play them for a friendly just last year. Yes, that Real Betis, La Liga giant Real Betis. You know what the score was? Real Betis 4 – 3 Chattanooga FC. They put three goals past players who have been in Real Betis’ academy system for years. They deserve a round of applause from me.

The local fans have now literally put their money into the club, since the Red Wolves came into existence. Just last year, the Chattanooga FC owners I mentioned earlier put the club up on WeFund. WeFund essentially partitions the team up into investments by whoever puts enough in to deserve a piece. Therefore, this team is run by the fans now, 3,256 to be exact and they get a say in the board members, everything that’s voted on.

With that being said, it is absolutely an instance of localism vs corporatism there in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Red Wolves came in with invested money. They threw said money at the original general manager of CFC, Sean McDaniels and the assistant director of coaching, Jimmy Weekly. They left the team in 2018 to join the newly created and USL League One sanctioned team owned by Bob Martino, a real estate investor in Park City, Utah. He also has now created a second team, a feeder team, back in Utah.

I appreciate the ideals behind Chattanooga FC as I’ve been following groups like Providence City FC, Rhode Island Reds, Hartford City FC, and even newly added Valeo FC. I refereed Valeo FC back when I reffed for the BSSL. These teams are all trying to make it on their own and build from the ground up, like Chattanooga FC did over 11 years.

It’s tough not to get upset at the ideal of someone coming in and just ripping out the innards of a company by throwing money at it. But, the Chattanooga Red Wolves are an existing team now, in USL League One and they are doing well for themselves. That’s a chat for another day. Another article.

Playoff Excitement and Haters…

I’m super pumped for this game on Saturday. I love even more that we’re underdogs. We thrive while being the underdogs and always have. It catapults the fans to a level of hype unseen, especially when the players catch on and double it down. This #RaiseYourColors tag has also kicked my feelings up a notch. The “Mama Mama” chant has been a mainstay in the Revolution realm for years now, it’s about time they assimilated to the supporter’s culture.

Atlanta will be tough…

Yeah yeah yeah, they’ve got a couple ex-Revs looking to pay the team back. Yeah, they’ve got one of the top goal scorers of the past few years since Atlanta came into the league. I’m not going to chop this up lightly. AU will definitely come out swinging. Atlanta will be coming into this with a general knowledge of the team from the game on Decision Day, fresh in their heads. This knowledge may be fake, so lets not even focus in on that. Martinez, Gressel and Pity/Barco can absolutely tear this Revs team apart and we’ve already seen it a few times within the past year. Martinez will be playing the back line as usual, hoping to catch someone sleeping.

The biggest plus on Atlanta’s half is that they’ll have 50,000 or more fans in the crowd making noise. I’ve heard a decent section of Revolution fans may be heading down for the game, but I still think it will be less than 30-40. I hope I’m wrong. Needless to say, the New England players will have to believe the fans are making a ruckus for them up in 329, very unlikely to be heard.

The major subtraction I can take from this team, is this team is not coached by MLS Cup winning Tata, they’ve got FDB. I cannot assume the same level of ability to keep players composed in the face of the Revs coming out and scoring first. I think this is where we may have a chance to change up people’s minds. We have an MLS Cup winning head coach, they don’t.

Hype Train Rolls On…

I will start at the top. As soon as Bruce Arena took a hold onto this team, they became a different entity entirely. We’ve seen cohesion between players and even some singular players having major confidence boosts. Right here, is where I start this hype train. I know a lot of us fans are tainted by performances past, but this coach, with this team. Arena seems to make these players want to run through walls for him. He definitely makes the fans want to jump out of their seats and run onto the field and hug him.

We have MLS Newcomer of the Year, Carles Gil on our team. He has been a part of this team since during the Friedel downfall and he still came out unscathed. He scored 10 goals this season and provided 14 more people with goals. Bou and him have vibed so well together that I don’t see this game not having a Bou to Gil to Bou goal. He will lead us to victory. oh capitán mi capitán

We have LA PANTERA, Gustavo Bou. He has 9 goals and 2 assists in 13 games started, 14 games played since he joined the team. At the moment, he is likely to strike again, as he hasn’t gone two games without a goal all season. On average, he scores a goal every game and a half. With that stat, if he was here all year, he would have been closing in on Martinez’s trail with around 24-25 goals in 34 games. He is the real deal and willing to do anything and everything to try and score. I hope this panther strikes again this upcoming game!

We have Matt Turner, our Goalkeeper of the Year in our hearts. His stats are unreal, even if it’s only part of the season. At one point in the season, this guy was supposed to have let in 28 goals. He allowed 20. There were no other goalkeepers even in his range for G-xG. He is the main reason this team stands in the playoffs. He is also the reason I’m consistently ready to run through a wall. Turner has shown me that he can step up and keep people motivated to make it all happen. In most of his interviews, he is always speaking on how the team is working together and working hard. It shows!

The team on the whole has been legit through this run of 5 and a half months since Arena stepped into his position as Head Coach/ Sporting Director. Agudelo, Fagundez, and Penilla have all had great showings in their various starts and super-sub moments. Luis Caicedo has continued to be the backbone of the team, always ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good (tactical fouls). He has great soccer IQ and it’s awesome to see. Big Wilf has showed he can be a great asset in keeping possession. He also manages to send some great passes through from time to time. The whole back-line in the past few games have worked their asses off. From Farrell, Delemea, Anibaba, Mancienne, to Jones, they all have shown some amazing work and I can’t wait to see the pumped up version of the defense they showed a week and a half ago.

All the haters…

Beware. The underdogs are ready to go. We will show up on Saturday. We will make as many strikes on goal as we did a week or so ago. And we will score them this time. We will keep your “strikers” out of our end with great ease. We will keep our calm and strike when the moment is right. Our supporters will be partying up in 329 singing “Glory Glory”, with an amazing emphasis on the part “Undivided…F UNITED”. I can’t wait to go to the bar and annoy the regulars when I’m jumping around the lounge area screaming my lungs out.“Mama Mama, Can’t you see, What New England’s done for me…” This is the Revolution and we will not back down. “Raise your colors, Raise them up.”