For their third meeting of the season, the City Union met Chattanooga FC at Finley Stadium, this time as Salt City Union, whereas they last traveled to Tennessee as Flower City Union. Both teams are riding high, with SCU getting points in their last 4 games, while Chattanooga has yet to lose this season. It’s no secret that Chattanooga will always be the most difficult team this season, with a record like that, however, SCU has previously played strongly against them. Both previous games were a 1-0 City Union loss, the first being due to a late penalty kick, and the other to a 30-yard rocket from a free kick by Markus Naglestad. SCU’s line-up was slightly changed from the last match. The most notable change was Angelo Calfo came off the bench last match to put in a great performance, and it appears to have rewarded him with a starting position.
It would be hard to watch the first half and not say that Chattanooga had been the better team. They didn’t put a ton of sustained pressure on Salt City Union., however, they had the ball for more possession. It wasn’t until the 20th minute that SCU finally had more than a couple of passes strung together or a clearance for their possession. That being said though, there were really only three times in the half that SCU was under a goal threat. I’ve commented recently that City Union’s defending hadn’t been as strong as it was in the opening of the year, most notably with mix-ups that led to goals. I stand by half that statement in regard to the first half. Both of Chattanooga’s best chances came from defensive mix-ups and turnovers. However other than those two mistakes, the duo of Mumbi Kwesele and Kyle Nelson did a great job in back, along with the rest of the outfield players who dropped back.
The first real chance of the match came in the 33rd minute, when a defensive mix-up led to the ball at the feet of the player you’d least want it to fall to, Naglestad. Thankfully, goalkeeper Michael Mejia attacked the ball and somehow prevented it from going in. Only 5 minutes later came a giveaway a little further up the pitch. Again it was passed to Naglestad, this time between two defenders, but again Mejia attacked and took it off his feet. The final real chance of the half came in stoppage time, as Juan Louis was fed a long ball behind the two defenders, with the shot going wide right off another save by Mejia.
It was more of the same through the start of the second half. Chattanooga was the stronger team at the start, but didn’t have a ton of real opportunities. Their first opportunity came in the 62nd minute, but Mejia had come out to make another great save, sending the ball wide. This would be Chattanooga’s final real chance of the match. They didn’t even have any real pressure until stoppage time.
The 63rd minute saw Coach Jordan Sullivan make a bold move: substituting in Oscar Sanchez, Matt Bolduc, and Malik Stewart, going for a more attacking game. Until stoppage time, it seemed that that would pay off, as the possession and attack was all SCU. Soon after these substitutions, they saw their best chance thus far in the match, a corner kick headed just wide of the net. The 75th minute saw another SCU chance, as Luke Ferreira sent a free kick into the box from 40 yards out, with the goalkeeper just taking it off Alioune Diakhate’s head. A minute later Sanchez had his first noticeable contribution, stealing the ball and passing around a Chattanooga defender, where Diakhate put it into the side netting. Another 2 minutes later, another chance, with a long free kick from Mejia taken on the bounce and put wide by Stewart, never really pressuring but nice to see a shot. The 80th minute saw another shot put wide by Stewart, as a jumping header in the SCU zone by Sanchez led to the two-on-two break that came to nothing.
The way the first half went, with Chattanooga being the attackers and Salt City Union having to mostly defend, the attacking substitutions was a dangerous strategy. However, it paid off. While the game ended 0-0, the second half was almost all Salt City. If you’d told me before the match, I could take a draw against Chattanooga, I’d have jumped at the chance. A loss was probably expected, a draw would be fantastic. However, the way they played the second half, the draw was fairly disappointing. They played like a team that could have won against the league leaders, but they just couldn’t put in the final shot. Maybe City Union is saving their win against Chattanooga for the final game of the season, to spoil Chattanooga’s lossless record?