Chattanooga FC (1-0-0) traveled to Birmingham to take on the Hammers (0-0-1) in the opening match of the 2016 NPSL regular season. The result was befitting of the action on the field. The reigning NPSL Southeast Conference Champs controlled possession much of the game, but had a hard time breaking down the bunkered lines of the Birmingham Hammers. The Hammers meanwhile had their chances, but could not find enough creativity in the final 18 for more than 2-3 shots on target. In the end, a slip in the Hammers backline on a corner kick allowed for CFC’s Sam Goni to head the ball just past Brad Louis’ outstretched arms in the 25th minute. Chattanooga 1, Hammers 0.
The Hammers’ backline was reshuffled for this match against CFC. William White, a center back for UAB and the Bermuda Men’s National Team, joined Alex Brown to fortify what has been a porous defensive line so far this season. His addition was welcomed as he helped calm the Hammers’ backline. The first 40 minutes of the match were highlighted by the Hammers playing very compact allowing Chattanooga to maintain possession. However, White along with Brown, Jordan Sinclair, and Kevin Francis stymied what was last year a dynamic attacking team in CFC.
The Hammers began to open up play in the last 5 minutes of the first half, and for much of the second half. In fact, the run of play was about equal in the second half. Gael Mabialas made his first runout for the Hammers on the right wing and showed off his speed and touch on the ball. He was a bright spot for the Hammers all game long, but in the end was unable to connect with his striking partners AJ Adcock or Karl Chester. Frustration mounted as the Hammers had a difficult time finding space for an uncontested shot.
As the second half minutes passed by, CFC seemed content to settle for a 1-0 victory by maintaining as much possession as possible. They were able to do so effectively and their skill on the ball was quite evident. It was a sight to see them 1-touch pass the ball around the midfield for long stretches in the first and second half. Although the game was close, the class that CFC showed on the ball has set the bar even higher for the Boys in Red. The Hammers still have more work to do in order to improve before next week’s trip to Knoxville.
Ever Tried. Ever Failed.
Try Again. Fail Again.
Soccer in the City of Birmingham Wins
An important story from tonight is that soccer is growing in the Magic City and around the Southeast. Upon arriving at the SHAC, I turned into a parking lot filled with tailgaters. Some sporting the CFC blues. Many wearing the home team reds. All having a good time in anticipation of the beautiful game right here in Birmingham.
Much credit should be given to the Chattahooligans supporters group for showing up in mass to cheer on their club. Like their on-field counterpart, they truly are the gold standard for supporter groups in the NPSL. Take a look at the video footage below to listen to their singing, chanting and cheering at the start of the second half.
Meanwhile, the passion was mirrored on the opposite end of the field by the Magic City Brigade. Back and forth. Drum beat after drum beat. Song after song. Cheer after cheer. The MCB and the Chattahooligans provided a proper soccer atmosphere… the kind of atmosphere you would expect to get at a small club match somewhere in the English country side. Two fanbases that love their cities battling it out for superiority.
Tonight was an excellent night for soccer in the Southeast. No, the Hammers were not victorious. But brick by brick my friends. The Hammers played with the best the NPSL has to offer and had their chances to send Chattanooga back to TN with an unexpected loss. The Magic City Brigade, although much lower in numbers than the Chattahooligans, made their presence felt to all who attended the match as well. The sky is the limit for this organization. There are many more games to go this season. The Hammers will continue to improve and may just surprise a few of their more experienced opponents.
The Hammers travel to Knoxville, TN on May 21st to take on the Knoxville Force of the NPSL Southeast Conference. Their next home match is May 28th for the second leg of the I-20 Cup against Georgia Revolution FC. The Revolution maintain a 2-0 lead on aggregate.