The Knoxville Lady Force played an aggressive game Saturday evening at Regal Soccer Stadium against their rivals, Chattanooga FC. Despite good ball control and energy throughout the game, the Lady Force yielded the victory with a 2-1 finish in favor of Chattanooga.
Chattanooga took the lead early with a goal in the ninth minute by Suzanna Arafa. By the twenty-third minute the Force looked to be settling into their play and evened the score to 1-1 with a nice shot by forward Kiah Allen. The teams fought back and forth with a handful of shots until Nikki Gears scored in the seventy-seventh minute to give the Chattanooga the advantage at 2-1.
Play was very physical with 21 total fouls, 13 by Chattanooga. Force forward Hannah Wilkinson, who also plays for the New Zealand National Team, came out in the fiftieth minute with an injured left shin.
“It was a really physical game that kinda got us out of our rhythm. With Hannah Wilkinson going out for the majority of the game, that really affected us,” said head coach Tom Gerlach. “I thought it was great that the girls bounced back after being down 1-0.”
The Knoxville Force played the men’s Chattanooga FC team following the women’s game, but with no better luck than the ladies. The Force played hard all 90 minutes, but ultimately could not hold back the Chattanooga offense and ended the game down by four.
The first 60 minutes showed a deadlock without strong offense or attacks from either team.
Play continued with limited shooting until the fifty-fourth minute when Chattanooga scored off a long run by Luis Trude and pulled ahead. The first goal of the game marked a shift in play and quickly gave way to three more unanswered Chattanooga goals in the fifty-sixth, fifty-ninth, and sixty-eighth minutes.
“I think it was definitely mental after the first goal. It was a quality goal, but after that we mentally lost it and the second, third, and fourth goals came as a result of it,” said head coach Paulo Neto.
The Force picked up their shooting and offensive game in the final 15 minutes of play but were unable to break through Chattanooga defense, finishing the game at 4-0, Chattanooga. Despite good effort by all the players and some key saves and shots, the Force and Lady Force will have to look to their next games, to secure their first home victories of the season.
The Force play two games next weekend: Friday, June 6 against Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves, and Saturday, June 7 against Pensacola City FC. The Lady Force play Alabama FC Saturday, June 7. All games will be at Regal Soccer Stadium. Tickets and other game details are available at www.knoxvilleforce.com