Rocket City Recap: Huntsville City FC loses to Chattanooga FC 1-0

Think back to August 27th, 2023. How long ago does that feel? That was the last time Huntsville City FC won a game. It was a 2-2 draw, with a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Inter Miami II. Since then, Huntsville has gone ten games without a win, including four straight losses in penalty shootouts.

I know results aren’t the end all be all for Huntsville by any stretch of the imagination. But results inspire confidence, which inspires better performances, which helps development. So getting results is still important, and Huntsville aren’t doing that.

Shop MLS Jerseys at MLSStore.com

It’s especially frustrating when you outshoot your opponent 14-9, allow only two shots on goal to your own five, and still lose. Let’s dive in.

The game

Interim manager Christophe Berra opted to roll out a completely unchanged lineup from the game against Crown Legacy, with Adem Sipić returning to the bench after his suspension.

The first serious chance for either team didn’t come until the 32nd minute, as before that it was not much more than a series of giveaways and set pieces that amounted to nothing. However, at that point, Jalen James of Chattanooga found himself in space and lashed a cross right across the face of goal that fooled Huntsville keeper Ben Martino but couldn’t find Alex McGrath’s foot for the tap in.

Huntsville’s first real look at goal came in the 40th minute, as Alejandro Velazquez-Lopez’s inch perfect through ball found Jonathan Bolaños and he put a powerful shot to the near post, which was caught.

Just before the half it was Chattanooga again somehow missing the frame of goal, with a second ball header off a corner which couldn’t have rolled past the corner of the goal more innocently and out for a goal kick.

Coming out of the break, Chattanooga were again on the front foot, finally registering their first shot on target in the 52nd minute. On the resulting corner, the visitors thought they’d taken the lead, but the referee judged Ben Martino to have controlled the ball before it was put in.

Truthfully, the following 15 minutes or so were much like the first 30, with both teams trading half chances that didn’t result in anything. In the 70th minute, Huntsville restructured their attack and took it back to a more familiar look. Alejandro Velazquez-Lopez came off for Ollie Wright and Dominic Wilson came off for Adem Sipic.

This pushed Maximus Ekk back to the left wing, where he lashed an effort just over the bar minutes later. Disaster for Huntsville struck in the 77th minute as Scott Cheevers got injured following a challenge he put in. The 17-year-old center back was down for quite some time, before being put in a sling and taken off in the ambulance. Please note I don’t have a medical degree, but landing on hard turf with your elbow typically only leads to a select few specific injuries, almost all of which should have Cheevers out long term.

This brought new signing Faiz Opande into the game for his debut. Immediately after the injury situation was sorted, Alex McGrath got the wrong side of Huntsville’s Kessy Coulibaly on a through ball and gave the visitors the lead.

Huntsville nearly equalized right from kickoff, but successive shots by Ollie Wright and Maximus Ekk were both cleared off the line. For 9 of the 10 minutes of stoppage time, the hosts failed to look threatening. However, the debutant Opande lashed a screamer from long range that was spilled out into the six yard box, and unfortunately cleared. That was that. 1-0 Chattanooga.

The performances

Again, the biggest issue with Huntsville in this one was finishing. I’m not sure what exactly Christophe Berra has figured out at the back the last two weeks, but hats off for sorting that problem out. We’ll see how things evolve depending how long Scott Cheevers, who may be Huntsville’s player of the season so far, is out injured.

But finishing is still a problem. Huntsville has 41 shots on target this season, one behind Philadelphia Union II for the most in all of MLS Next Pro. However, that’s resulted in just 8 goals, the 15th most.

This bye week coming up for Christophe Berra’s squad will likely be filled with lots of finishing training. Keep in mind Huntsville has completed the sixth most passes in MLS Next Pro, and has taken the second most corners.

It’s truly baffling how a team that puts together good attacking patterns this often can’t score more goals. If Huntsville’s finishing was even just a little better, we might be talking about the best team in the Eastern Conference. They’d at least be in the conversation.

Again, finishing training. Then more finishing drills. Then a couple more after practice is over. That’s how this team, and more importantly the players that make it up, will improve.

Author: Ronan Briscoeis a contributor for Broadway Sports, and a founding contributor at SoundwaveSoccer.com, where he covers Nashville SC, Huntsville City FC and Nashville's youth academy.

Leave a Reply