chattanoogafc.com

Chattanooga FC ready to face challenge from USL D-III

Leave a comment

The next battleground for the future of lower division American soccer was identified Friday night, and it’s located along the Tennessee River.

Chattanooga FC is an undisputed success for lower league soccer. The 10th-year National Premier Soccer League club is a four-time league finalist and seven-time conference winner.

[ MORE: USL’s Cincy reportedly to add Adi, Alashe ]

More important, however, is CFC’s status as proof that division doesn’t have to matter if your club can bring a crowd. Chattanooga averages 4,000-plus fans, has drawn more than 18,000 fans to a single game, and boasted more than 12,000 for a friendly with Atlanta United at 20,668 capacity Finley Stadium.

If there was a club likely to control its own destiny in American soccer, it was this one. Heck, CFC’s success put the city on the map for USMNT and USWNT matches, and the club was actively pursuing a professional future. Board member Bill Nuttall admitted that CFC was being “courted by both” USL and NISA as recently as November.

Ah but that conditional if.

Enter a couple of shocking tweets. On Friday, Chattanooga FC announced that general manager Sean McDaniel was leaving the club, and that an investor from Utah had acquired the rights to put a USL D-III team in the market. Nuttall left, too. The club was not involved in the bid.

[ MORE: Shipp leads Seattle by NYC ]

McDaniel had no comment, other than to tell ProSoccerTalk he’ll release a statement later in the week.

Chattanooga chairman Timothy Kelly said that McDaniel and Nuttall occasionally butted heads with the rest of the club — there were “serious philosophical differences” between the parties — but left no hints that anything major was on the horizon.

“There was nothing other than we knew the philosophical rift existed,” Kelly said. “We certainly feel betrayed … but we’re relieved not to have the rift.”

Kelly said the philosophical differences were innate, and connected to how the board members viewed the club. As a microcosm, McDaniel did not hold open tryouts in 2017, in defiance of the board’s wishes to best scout local talent.

Complicating future plans for McDaniel and the club, assuming the report is true, would also be a fundamental difference of opinion on USL and its new third division USL D-III.

[ MORE: Mitrovic in, Rondon out at NUFC? ]

“We’re big fans of the notion of an open system and promotion/relegation, and I deeply believe that the franchise system is what’s fundamentally wrong with American soccer,” Kelly said. “We’re not going to sacrifice our principles for personal gain.”

USL replied to PST in an email:

“We look forward to meeting with USL Division III ownership groups during the USL Mid-Year Meetings in Atlanta next week. Both the league and its owners are excited to bring the thrill of professional soccer to these new markets. We will provide a more formal update on USL Division III, including exciting new cities and league details, following our Mid-Year Meetings.”

McDaniel also served on the National Premier Soccer League board, and submitted his resignation on Thursday night. NPSL chairman Joe Barone spoke with PST, and said McDaniel had been less active in league matters in recent months without informing anyone on the board of any reason for his absence.

“Chattanooga is a model organization not only for the NPSL but for soccer in general in the United States,” Barone said. “The fan base and community support are what make Chattanooga, and it’s tough to replicate that with a new club whether you’re Division 4, 3, 2 or 1.”

Lower level clubs continue to seek the most attractive path toward becoming bigger players in American soccer. Peter Wilt’s departure from NISA has put the nascent league in uncertain territory, the NASL remains on hiatus, and other leagues are still negotiating the start of professional play.

USL D-III is an intriguing option for clubs due to a lower budget and entry fee, and has announced Toronto FC II, Tormenta FC (Georgia), FC Tucson, and unnamed clubs in Madison (Wisc.) and Greenville (S.C.) as founding members for 2019.

[ MORE: Simeone bidding on Simeone? ]

Kelly expressed serious doubts about the chances for success of a new club in Chattanooga, and said reaction to the challenge of a second club has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“We have always been fundamentally about Chattanooga as much as we’ve been about soccer,” he said. “We’ve said we’re totally dedicated to our local market. We said we’d never leave. This is not a franchise that is going to parachute in and parachute out. We’re fundamentally in tune with Chattanooga. We’re dedicated to grassroots up, as opposed to franchise down.

“We’ve spoken to all the staff members, all the stakeholders, and the expression of support has been warm and universal,” Kelly said. “We expect we’re going to win this fight.”

Put differently, from another CFC owner:

Again assuming the reports are true, it’s a puzzling fight for USL D-III to pick as it launches for 2019. As the second-tier USL sees success for many of its club and continues prolific expansion, trying to start a third division club in a market with a decade-old fourth division club is a head scratcher unless it was possible to cherry pick CFC and drop it into its first season.

American club soccer still is the Wild West, though, and any area’s club needs to be prepared for a battle from big dollars regardless of its success. Major League Soccer is trying to expand into Detroit despite (and maybe because) NPSL side Detroit City FC boasting wild attendance figures and hosting friendlies against Venezia, FC St. Pauli, and Club Necaxa.

[ MORE: Pochettino hopeful for signings as injuries pile up, deadline looms ]

In a lot of ways it’s unsavory, but not terribly unique: The World Hockey Association of the 1970s saw all of its teams fold save the four who would join the National Hockey League. The “sport of the future” truly is here, and early adopters aren’t granted free passes to the present.

As the number of teams in the NPSL and Premier Development League continues to rise and more markets prove they can draw crowds, this is going to keep happening for some time. And upward mobility happens: The PDL’s Ottawa Fury moved into the NASL in 2014, and now plays in the USL. The NPSL’s Nashville FC and PDL’s Richmond Kickers now have entities in the USL.

Yet it doesn’t have to feel good. It’s America, and USL D-III has every reason to aim for the Chattanooga market. Why an investor would pick this particular fight, however, leaves plenty to the imagination. What’s to come from the presumably impending announcement from McDaniel in Tennessee?

DISCLAIMER: The author operates a club in the same league as Chattanooga FC.

Toronto FC-DC United postponed due to COVID-19 tests

Toronto - DC United postponed
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It happened just like that, after a day’s worth of hype for Sunday morning’s MLS is Back Tournament debuts from Toronto FC and DC United.

Two COVID-19 tests — an unconfirmed positive COVID-19 test and an inconclusive one — were enough to postpone the 9am ET kickoff from Orlando, where the participating teams are living for the month-long affair.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

MLS will announce details for the rescheduled match later Sunday.

Nashville SC and FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the tournament due to a series of COVID-19 tests while LAFC star Carlos Vela removed himself due to concerns for his growing family.

From TorontoFC.ca:

Under the league’s health and safety protocols, clubs are tested the day before each match.  The results of yesterday’s tests for D.C. United and Toronto FC produced an initial unconfirmed positive COVID-19 case for one player and an inconclusive test for another player.  Because of the arrival time of the clubs in Orlando, the league’s protocol called for retesting both teams this morning and to await the results of those tests prior to playing the match.

Wolves throttle sorry Everton

Leave a comment

Wolves overran sleepy Everton to snap a two-game losing skid with a 3-0 win at the Molineux on Sunday.

Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and Leander Dendoncker scored for Wolves, who are back within four points of the top four before Manchester United and Leicester City stage their 35th matches.

 [ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wolves face Burnley, Palace, and Chelsea, and will be considering a berth in the top four with a little help on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Everton remains 11th with 45 points and will finish the season with Villa, Sheffield United, and Bournemouth.

WATCH WOLVES – EVERTON FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Everton awakened from European dreams: Carlo Ancelotti’s 2020-21 plans officially start now. The Toffees are five points back of the Europa League with three matches left and could be seven or eight behind should there be a winner of the North London Derby later Sunday. It just hasn’t come together for the Toffees starting with the myriad injury troubles for Jean-Philippe Gbamin — out until 2021 — in his bid to take over for influential Idrissa Gana Gueye. There were other long-term injuries like Andre Gomes as well as the continued decline of Jordan Pickford, but there are too many bright spots for this side to be bottom-half. A mentality shift must be coming to Goodison, but you would’ve expected that to be cemented over the coronavirus pause.

2. Podence deputizes: January buy Daniel Podence has found it hard to find a place in Nuno Espirito Santo’s Starting XI but he’s taking his chances well. Podence forced a good save out of Jordan Pickford early, then won a penalty. He converted four of his five dribble attempts and claimed 67% of his ground duels (SofaScore).

3. Carlo needs a keeper: Carlo Ancelotti has gone out of his way to defend Jordan Pickford in the past and it’s certainly nice to have an England keeper as your No. 1 if you’re a Premier League boss, but the Toffees aren’t firing on to Europe any time soon with shot-stopping of his quality. Pickford nearly fumbled a ball over the with the score line 2-0. He’s still capable of the show-stopping saves but he’s not producing them as often and he’s not as consistent with the average to above average stuff he consistently displayed while making his name at Sunderland.

Man of the Match

Ruben Neves — He is a special, special talent. Neves’ assist on Jota’s goal was just marvelous and capped off a day of both tidy and ambitious passing. He’s been one of their best players since the restart, a physical force with technical gifts.

LOOK. AT. THIS. PASS.


Wolves – Everton recap

A slow-enough start was highlighted by Lucas Digne’s sliding intervention on Raul Jimenez in the 18.

Everton keeper Jordan Pickford then had to make a low save at the near post on Daniel Podence following a slick 1v1 move.

Yerry Mina didn’t last the first half thanks to a thigh injury, replaced a half-dozen minutes before halftime by Seamus Coleman.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Podence drew a penalty off Digne in stoppage time, sending Raul Jimenez to the spot. The Mexican center forward did not miss.

Everton took off Leighton Baines and handed a PL debut to 18-year-old January signing Jarrad Branthwaite.

Wolves made it 2-0 within moments and at the expense of the debutant, Dendoncker staying in front of Branthwaite to nod Pedro Neto’s free kick on goal.

Pickford nearly fumbled a low shot into his own goal but Goal Decision System proved he rescued the ball when it was half over the line.

Aston Villa – Crystal Palace stream: How to watch, team news, start time

Aston Villa - Crystal Palace stream
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Aston Villa – Crystal Palace preview: Dean Smith’s Villans need a win over Crystal Palace to keep hope of remaining in the Premier League alive (Watch live at 9:15am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Villa has just left a brutal run of fixtures and finds itself seven points back of safety with four matches to play. If that figure remains seven with three to play, well, the math is grim even with West Ham as the last name on that fixture list.

WATCH ASTON VILLA – CRYSTAL PALACE STREAM LIVE ONLINE

Palace’s European hopes have settled into a valley, eight points away from the 42 points and 14th place.

Team news

Both Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings start for Villa along with John McGinn in the middle and Pepe Reina at the back.

It’ll be the usual suspects for Palace, with possible subs including James McCarthy, Andros Townsend, and Max Meyer.

 

How to watch Aston Villa – Crystal Palace

Kickoff: 9:15 am ET Sunday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Add this season mark to the list of crazy Lionel Messi records

Lionel Messi records
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona is a long shot to claim a third-straight La Liga title but that isn’t stopping Lionel Messi from setting new standards.

Messi slipped Arturo Vidal through for the lone goal of Barcelona’s win at Real Valladolid on Sunday, collecting his 20th assist of the league season in the process.

The helper makes Messi the second player this century to record 20 goals and 20 assists in a top five European league season after his former teammate Thierry Henry did it with Arsenal (24+20). Messi has 22 goals this season.

He’s also the first player to do it in La Liga, and the first to record 20 assists in a La Liga season since another former teammate, Xavi Hernandez.

Messi is one of eight players in Europe’s top five leagues to score 20-plus goals and one of only two with 20 assists (Thomas Muller). Only five others have double-digit goals and assists: Kevin De Bruyne, Serge Gnabry, Jadon Sancho, Alassane Plea, and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Barcelona hosts Osasuna and visits Alaves on the final two match days of the season. Can he match or even beat Henry’s goal output? He has 30 goals in 28 career appearances against the aforementioned opponents.

Real Madrid will edge closer to wrapping up the league with a win at Granada on Monday. Zinedine Zidane’s men are on an incredible and near-imperious run, having won eight-straight games and riding a 457-minute league shutout streak.

Real currently leads Barca by a point with a match-in-hand, then finish with Villarreal and Leganes.