In 2014, Chattanooga FC made history by becoming the first National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) team to eliminate a professional team when they beat Wilmington Hammerheads, 3-1. A year later, those same two teams squared off, and history repeated itself. This time, after a 1-1 draw, it took penalty kicks for Chattanooga to oust the Hammerheads.
By winning the penalty kick shootout 5-3, Chattanooga sets up another rematch. Just like last year, the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks will travel to Finley Stadium, the place where they cruised to a 5-0 victory.
“As an amateur team playing on the road against a professional team, we just needed to try to be in the game at the end,” said Chattanooga FC coach Bill Elliott. “We didn’t have any allusions that we were going to go out and win it early. We just wanted to hang around and be in it at the end.” That is exactly what Elliot’s team did.
The Second Round US Open Cup match began with the Wilmington club keeping control of possession. The Hammerheads controlled possession with accurate midfield passing, but when Chattanooga got the ball, no time was wasted attempting a goal. Several Hammerhead chances fizzled out in front of the goal because of passing. Each team took three shots by the end of the half. A foul committed by Chattanooga FC resulted in a Hammerheads penalty kick at the 37th minute taken by Zimmerman, who scored the first goal of the night.
The second half was a continuous cycle of each team taking chances that were either cleared in the box or saved, but neither club seemed to be discouraged by this. They never stopped trying. There were several instances where the ball was right feet away from the goal bouncing like a pinball between players. In the 58th minute, Chattanooga broke the cycle when Chrispin Ochieng capitalized on an assist from Samuel Goni. Possession was more evenly distributed throughout the later half. Since neither team was able to score again, the match went into extra time.
The pace of the game slowed slightly during extra time. Both clubs continued taking shot after shot, but neither club was giving away chances. After 30 minutes of extra time, many shots, and several saves, the score still remained even.
Chattanooga FC finally wrestled away the victory by outscoring Wilmington Hammerheads FC 5-3 in penalties.
“They worked as hard as they possibly could,” Hammerheads coach Carson Porter said about his team. “So you can’t ask for anything more on the work. We talked about trying to make plays, and I think we didn’t make a play at the end there. That was a little disappointing, but overall it was a great effort. I feel a bit disappointed for the players.”