CHATTANOOGA, TN - Forward Madison FC kicked off a new era of soccer for Madison Saturday night in its inaugural USL League One game, but ultimately lost 1-0 on the road to Chattanooga Red Wolves SC. Several dozen fans made the trip down to Tennessee to watch FMFC live, while more gathered back home for watch parties in Madison.
The Flamingos held the vast majority of possession (67 percent) throughout the match and created more chances (11 shots to 6), but were ultimately undone by a neat goal from Red Wolves striker Éamon Zayed in the 67th minute. According to Head Coach Daryl Shore, his team played well, even as the end result didn’t show it.
“Overall I thought the effort of our group was very good, I don’t think we came out and played too nervous for it being our first game,” Shore said. “They were tough to break down, and it’s their home opener. So for us we’re obviously disappointed with the result, but I don’t think we’re too disappointed with the way we played.”
Shore had to contend with his first challenge before the opening whistle, as left back Christian Diaz’s international player clearance failed to come through in time for kickoff. Shore was forced to shuffle his deck, moving midfielder Don Smart back into the defense.
“Our hands were tied because Christian’s ITC (International Transfer Certificate) didn’t come in, so we waited to the last minute with that,” Shore said. “We felt the best chance was to move Don back to right back because he’s comfortable playing there, [and] Carter [Manley]’s comfortable playing on the left.”
FMFC came out strong from the opening whistle. Chattanooga goalkeeper Alex Mengels had to leap to catch striker Mason Toye’s attempted chip shot in the 10th minute, then shortly thereafter midfielder Josiel Núñez came close with a free kick that sailed over the bar. Núñez put on an impressive debut performance, completing 68 passes and showing off creative ways to set up teammates, including a highlight-reel backheel flick in the 20th minute
In the 18th minute, center back Wyatt Omsberg played a cross-field pass that cut out nearly the entire Red Wolves defense, but Paulo Júnior’s shot was ultimately blocked. At the halftime whistle, the two teams remained deadlocked at 0-0.
The second half saw little action until the 67th minute, when the Red Wolves recorded their only shot on target - and only goal - of the night. Chattanooga midfielder Steven Beatttie sprung a first-time pass over the onrushing Madison defense, and Zayed, a 35-year-old veteran who has scored well over 100 goals in his career, lashed the ball into the top corner.
“[We] came out in the second half, had a good start, and just one chance for Zayed, that’s what he’s so good at, give him one chance and he can hurt you,” Shore said. “Tonight he did.”
With its inaugural game now under its belt, Forward Madison will travel down to Frisco, Tex. next Saturday in search of the team’s first-ever goal and points when they take on North Texas FC. The Flamingos will then return to Madison to open up a newly-renovated Breese Stevens Field for an exhibition match against the UW-Madison men’s soccer team on April 16.
Venue: David Stanton Field (Chattanooga, TN)
Forward Madison FC: Dayne St. Clair; Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg, Connor Tobin, Don Smart (yellow card 45+2’); J.C. Banks, Jeff Michaud (Brandon Eaton 82’), Josiel Núñez (yellow card 14’; Brian Bement 86’); Paulo Júnior, Jiro Barriga Toyama (Zaire Bartley 71’), Mason Toye
Unused substitutes: Ryan Coulter, Shaun Russell, Eric Leonard
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC: Alex Mangels; Vangiel Zguro (yellow card 85’), Leo Folla, Andrew Kendall-Moullin, Richard Dixon; Ualefi dos Reis, Jonathan Caparelli (Josue Soto 83’), Conor Doyle; Sito Seoane (yellow card 34’; Juan Mare 67’), Steven Beattie, Éamon Zayed (goal 67’)
Unused substitutes: Will Dieterich, Nicholas Amponsah, Colin Falvey, Ami Pineda
Forward Madison FC’s inaugural season is here! The team will open up a newly-renovated Breese Stevens Field on April 16 for an exhibition match with UW-Madison, then stage its inaugural home opener on April 27 vs Greenville Triumph SC. Get tickets to see Forward Madison’s inaugural season at: https://www.forwardmadisonfc.com/tickets.