Entering the competition, the league, as a whole, was 0-15-0 against pro competition all-time, but a pair of goals from Luke Winter helped lead the way to the team’s first tournament victory.
With the win, the NPSL Southeast Conference Champions advance to the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time in club history. Chattanooga will host NASL-side Atlanta Silverbacks at Finley Stadium on May 28th.
The match nearly didn’t take place at all. Heavy storms rolling in to Chattanooga from the southwest forced team officials to move the match up an hour. Despite the last minute time change, a crowd of 1,502 braved the rain.
For the first 15 minutes, the teams played each other evenly, with Wilmington holding slightly more possession. Chattanooga began to look like the stronger side, though, using fluid wing play to create several dangerous chances. In the 21st minute, forward Luke Winter beat the Wilmington offside trap for a breakaway, tucking the ball past keeper Matt Glaeser to open the scoring.
In the 39th minute, somewhat against the run of play, the Hammerheads equalized, when Brazilian-born Belgian Mickael Oliveira slipped his marker and flicked in a cross from Jordan Hamilton. This boost would be short lived, as just before halftime, Wilmington’s Jason Watson was cautioned for deliberately handling the ball while on the ground. It was his second yellow card of the match, resulting in a red card and his dismissal.
The second half started evenly but with the player advantage Chattanooga eventually asserted control. In the 63rd minute midfielder Luis Trude make a picture-perfect cross from the right wing, connecting directly with Winter. The Tennessee Wesleyan College alumnus had little choice but to head it sharply to the near post for his second goal of the night, giving the 4th Division side a 2-1 lead.
Asked about his two goals, Winter said: “The first one, I knew I was onside. It would have been hard for him to make that call. The second one, Luis hit it so well, it wasn’t even a cross – it was a pass. It was a pass directly to my head.”
In the 89th minute, with Wilmington desperately pressing late in the game, Chattanooga took advantage on the counterattack. Trude slipped through on a breakaway but was taken down by Oliveira, who was immediately sent off for stopping a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Deep into stoppage time, Chattanooga capitalized on the two-man advantage, with an insurance goal from Chrispin Ochieng, assisted by Trude, his second of the night.
FULL MATCH REPLAY