Welcome back to the Third Round, Chattanooga.
Behind Taylor Gray serving up two assists and reigning-NISA scoring champion Markus Naglestad opening his Open Cup goal tally, Chattanooga FC set up a spot in the Third Round for the second straight year with a 4-1 win over the Des Moines Menace on Wednesday evening.
Chattanooga was able to exploit Des Moines’ 3-5-2 formation by loading up the penalty area early and often. Naglestad’s opener came after the forward was lost in the shuffle of a cross. Getting on the end of Mutaya Mwape’s cross, Gray nodded the ball back across the frame and allowed Naglestad to volley home his first goal of the tournament.
A first-half injury that sent Mwape off and inserted Damian Rodriguez did little to slow down CFC, as the sub was able to receive a ball in the penalty area from Luis Garcia Sosa and pound home what turned out to be the eventual game-winner.
“Damien Rodriguez, very good,” said Chattanooga head coach Rod Underwood. “Our goal this year was not to build depth, but to build starters. We feel like we’re trying to build a team that can start. We want those headaches every week of ‘who’s going to play’.”
Des Moines did offer a response in the second half. A goal from Fernando Garcia in the 69th minute offered a lifeline to the USL2 squad, but the Menace could not put two good chances away shortly after to equalize.
???? CFC REWIND: Look back on the 4 goals in last night’s U.S. @OpenCup match.— Chattanooga Football Club (@ChattanoogaFC) April 7, 2023
We face USLC side Birmingham Legion in the Third Round later this month. Birmingham absolutely roasted its opponent with 4 goals last night so we know we must be ready.
“I knew this game was going to be a lot harder than everybody was thinking in their head,” Underwood said. “I know Des Moines. We just knew we had to be good. And if we weren’t good, we were going to get punished. We made sure we didn’t take it lightly.”
The visitors capitalized on the missed opportunities late to cement their spot in the next round. Andrew McGrath sent a 50-yard strike into an open goal after Menace goalkeeper Grant Makela came off his line for an intercepted clearance to regain the two-goal cushion. In the dying minutes, Chattanooga was able to round out the scoring through Juan Louis when Gray slipped the substitute through from midfield.
CFC will travel to Birmingham Legion (USL Championship) for the Third Round. The date is still to be determined.
In the 2022 edition, CFC was tasked with going toe-to-toe against defending Open Cup champion Atlanta United in the third round. The Five Stripes easily handled the NISA side 6-0.
With the loss, Des Moines fails to reach the third round for the fourth straight tournament after becoming a notable cup-set squad. Coming into Wednesday’s tilt, the Menace has been able to knock off seven professional teams in its 14th appearance in the tournament. The last time Des Moines beat a higher-division team was 2016, earning a 2-0 win over Tulsa Roughnecks FC in the second round.