Coach’s Corner: Force vs Chattanooga FC


Opponent: Chattanooga FC
Result: Force 2- CFC 1

This week’s training was modified slightly due to the camp program that the Force has introduced to the area. The boys trained Monday in very hot weather, did a fitness session on Tuesday, regular sessions on Wednesday and Friday with sport massage and a real tactical session on Thursday that focused on us being disciplined in defense, but very threatening from wide areas when we win the ball. This feature of our play was very evident throughout our recent run of good results and would end up having an influence on this our final league game of the season.

The game started in what were perfect conditions for soccer–cool, overcast and a great surface to move the ball around on! Our players started very well as they have done recently. We got the ball into some good wide areas and both David Habba and Ben Backstrom thriving in their 1v1 situations. They were getting in behind their opponent and delivering some good balls into the box. They also got us free kicks in good areas as the Chattanooga FC defenders had to foul to prevent them from advancing. We were rewarded for our success in wide areas in about the 8th minute when Ben put in a great ball that David got on the end of and he put a fine finish into the net.

Our going a goal up was obviously going to spark the game. CFC got fired up and the first half got quite competitive with some very borderline tackles coming in from both teams. The officials were letting things go and both sets of players took full advantage of their leniency. When there were a couple of incidents in quick succession, the referee brought his card out which seemed to rile up the crowd and set up a very good atmosphere.

The big incident in the first half came right on halftime. CFC had created a couple of openings from distance and the Force, too, had a couple of opportunities that could have caused us to increase our lead. But, in the 44th minute, the referee saw a trip in our box and awarded a penalty kick to CFC. The referee was the only one other than the hopeful CFC bench who thought it was a foul and the dive from the CFC forward would have graced any diving competition. The other thing the referee got wrong was that, if it was indeed a foul, our defender should have been red carded as it clearly denied a goal-scoring opportunity!  The forward got up quickly, dusted himself off and put away the resulting kick.

By the time the penalty was taken, the referee quickly called the half to a close.

Our focus at half time was clearly to get the players (and staff) minds off that call and to try and get ourselves back in the game. The incident was discussed and quickly dismissed within a minute of the talk and the rest of the time was spent reinforcing our game style, keeping our cool in a highly charged game, and working on getting more possession to get a better foothold in the game.

We got out early for the second half and wanted our players waiting for CFC as they came out. The half started very competitively yet again.  Tackles were flying in and the game was very physical. We did manage to get more possession and really kept CFC to shooting from distance or to crossing the ball in from wide areas. Wez Barnard, Joe Townsend and Jack Coulton were very competent in dealing with this and the game became quite open.

On 60 minutes, we had to take out David due to injury, Zigga Wright who was cramping up and Theo Yang who has been nursing a hamstring injury all week. On came Igor Petch, Camden Brown, and Brandon Tarr, all adding different things to our game.  Igor got hold of the ball and started to dictate with Fubi Itode and Alesi Osorio in midfield. Camden became a real threat with his pace down the right hand side, and Brandon was working hard to stop the CFC back 4 from having the ball.

We also brought on Ryan Stinton and Moise Leonce for the hard working Ben and TJ McCallum on 70 minutes and again these players kept up the work rate and spirit of the team. The winning goal came in the 89th minute.  Camden went on one of his high speed runs down the right and put in a great cross, Brandon (who is not the biggest) got in between the defender and the GK to meet the ball with a fine header and put it into the net. This goal was a fine reward for a real team effort that has been in the cards for a few weeks. The team has shown a great spirit and the training sessions have been a breeding ground for the “non-starters” to raise their level of performance.

This win was significant on several fronts.  It shows that we can perform with the big clubs in the division.  It also shows that we are improving as a team.  But more importantly, it shows that this team wants to perform for the Knoxville community!  Finally, we hope that it improves our position in the Southeastern conference!

The performance last night should be the focus of the organization, not just the result.  The players coped with adversity, played their hearts out and got their reward for a lot of hard work that the fans do not see. For Wez and Josh it was a little more special due to their ties with CFC but it would be wrong of me not to mention a person who has not featured in my notes thus far this season. Kurt Backstrom, our trainer, has worked very hard over the season, and particularly hard over the past three weeks maintaining the players welfare through to the end of the season. His work was evident this past week with both Fubi and Theo being able to take part at the start of this match. His efforts were a major reason for the performance and results over the past several weeks. Thanks Kurt from all the staff and players!!!