Chattanooga FC heads west to play for NPSL title
SAN DIEGO (WRCB) -- Dozens of fans gathered at Chattanooga FC's final practice of the season Wednesday at Finley Stadium.
While the season is not yet over, it was the last chance for many of the self-proclaimed "Chattahooligans" to see their beloved team.
"Going to Huntsville two years ago was a much shorter drive than it is going to California this time around," said CFC fan Galen Riley.
Chattanooga FC traded in its bus for a plane Thursday en route to San Diego, where the team's second trip to the National Premier Soccer League Final Four in the last three years will pit them against the Bay City Ambassadors at 10 p.m. ET Friday night.
CFC clinched its spot in the national semifinals by beating the Georgia Revolution two weeks ago to win the NPSL Southeast Conference championship, but it won't be the same team heading to the West Coast.
"Certainly we have some guys who aren't able to make it because of work, family obligations. It's just a strange variety of things," said head coach Bill Elliott. "We're definitely not traveling with our full complement of players, but having said that, the players who are traveling are quality players."
The same goes for the team's loyal fans.
The distance proved a great deterrent for the Chattahooligans, who have traveled to every away game so far this season. Riley expects to be one of only a half-dozen or so fans making the trip.
"But we're going to sound like a hundred, so that's not going to matter," he joked.
Apparently at this stage, the opponent doesn't matter much either.
Elliott has spent the past two weeks keeping the focus on Chattanooga FC since he hasn't seen the Bay City Ambassadors play.
"I know absolutely nothing about them," Elliott said. "I can only imagine that being from the San Francisco Bay area, they have a lot of players to choose from and are surely talented. But really I have no idea.
"It'd be nice to know if they had a really great goal-scorer or something like that, but my philosophy is focus on the things that you can control. So we've been focusing on ourselves."
That sits well with the Chattahooligans, who don't seem to care who CFC is playing. They've already got their weekend plans pretty much mapped out.
"We're trying to figure out some touristy stuff to do while we're in town, but we'll be there when we play in the semifinals on Friday," Riley said. "Then there's a third-place match Saturday that will be entirely irrelevant for us because we'll be busy winning the NPSL title on Sunday afternoon."