There are few things in life that can bring everyone together. Cute pets and ice cream are good, but nothing unites us more than our love for Chattanooga FC, the greatest club in our beautiful scenic city. Scenic City Football Blog is my attempt to blog about everyone’s favorite club, looking analytically at CFC’s results on the pitch as well as dictating my thoughts on the club in general. This is definitely a work in progress so if you have any comments or suggestions don’t hesitate to reach out!
The blog format is still a work in progress, but these are likely going to be the three main content areas I write in:
Nooga by the Numbers
The results on the pitch are one of the foremost outputs of Chattanooga FC and the Scenic City Football Blog is working hard to bring unique match summaries and statistics to you the reader. Look forward to unparalleled reviews of every CFC match including territorial possession and expected goals statistics.
This section may or may not survive in the long haul, but it’s dedicated to more opinion/information based writing. I’ll write about my favorite experiences with CFC, players to watch, and more like that. It would be super awesome if this developed into a forum/discussion sort of space- if you’re reading this and think you’d like to try your hand at some writing, I’d love to post your content too!
I am a data science nerd at heart and in the background I’ll be messing around with some statistical programming, starting with an expected goals model specific to NISA play. I’ll occasionally post about these models to look fancy. I imagine not everyone will want to see this, which is why it’s getting sectioned off.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll enjoy the Scenic City Football Blog this year!
It feels like only a few days ago we were together at Finley Stadium… 52 days to be exact. Such an exciting, entertaining season with an unfortunate ending.
A new day dawns. Just 31 days from now we’ll be together again at Finley. There’s been a lot going on this offseason, so to keep in the writing groove, I’m starting a new series, “Why I’m Excited for the 2023 Season,” to transcript exactly what the title suggests, capturing the ins and outs of the morsels handed to us to survive until our boys in blue take the field again. In this series I will explore the exciting possibilities of the season to come, from the concrete to speculative. I hope that in reading this you gain a little more excitement yourself as the new season edges closer.
World Cup Hype
I’m hoping that the world cup brings some excitement to the game here in the states. The US national team didn’t participate in any particularly thrilling games, but the knockouts were exciting to watch and that may just translate to new supporters of the game locally. I myself am a product of the 2014 world cup. I had been watching the premier league occasionally on Saturday mornings, but the world cup reeled me in. Here’s to more love for the beautiful game this year.
Atlanta United vs Chattanooga FC
Speaking of the world cup, a member of the winning Argentina squad, Thiago Almada, will begin his preseason right here in the scenic city as Atlanta United come to visit. This is a massive, massive game for several reasons:
First, the above: The first ever active MLS player to win the world cup will be in Chattanooga. If that doesn’t draw the casual fan, I’m not sure what will.
Atlanta United reached out to us to set the game up. They see Chattanooga as a high potential market, and they see Chattanooga FC as a legitimate club. The reputation CFC has for this size of city and this tier in the soccer pyramid is massive.
January 28 is EARLY. There are a few subpoints to this. Recruiting will be big. Any player looking for a club will look favorably on a January matchup with an MLS side. This is probably earlier than most teams will even start training. To that note, we have the potential for a very long preseason. Section 109 Podcast did a great interview with CFC head coach Rod Underwood last month where he said we’re still getting started setting up his preferred style of play. Thinking about him having two months to ingrain a higher level of play before the NISA season starts has me excited for what we’re going to see on the field. For reference, the NISA schedule wasn’t even announced until February 3rd last year. That also leaves a good window for more friendlies before NISA starts, which is exactly what we want.
Markus Naglestad took the league by storm last season, scoring 19 goals (one every 96 minutes he played!) and winning the golden ball as best player in the league. If ever there was a player to retain in order to challenge for the trophies this season, Markus is the man. Indeed, he was the first announced returner last week and that’s reason enough to be excited for 2023. He is obviously very clinical with the ball, and his presence and reputation often draw an extra defender which leaves extra space for his teammates to work in. Markus is a player to build a winning team around.
I’m confident that Markus could have moved up to the USL Championship if he wanted to, and the fact that he’s already committed to Chattanooga speaks volumes to the city, club, and the project Rod Underwood is building. Something special is going on here.
Speaking of special, signing number two Taylor Gray has some special talent that we’re excited to see again. He played the most minutes of any player in the league last season, and with good reason as he wowed us with incredible technical ability that may be second to none at this level.
Richard Dixon is a very important returner. His presence in the midfield is essential. He can break up play like no one else, which is double important for a team that likes to push forward. Not only that, but his work throughout the organization is important to the club and the city.
It’s always great to see Damian Rodriguez return to the CFC fold. We’ve watched him grow and improve over the last few years, and he pushed his way into the starting eleven many times last season. When he starts dribbling at his opponent you always get the feeling that something magic could happen. Here’s to another season with greater involvement for The Kid!
Alex Jaimes is another player who was in and out of the eleven last season. He has a great work ethic and is solid on the ball. If he continues to improve then we can expect to see great things from him this year as well.
Ethan Koren returns for another year with CFC- we the fans did not get to see much of him last season, but Rod Underwood, who brought him back, did. He too is young with much space to improve so I’m excited to see what he brings to the team this year.
Finally, Joseph Perez is the only new face in the squad so far. He comes from California United Strikers. Not an expected signing by any stretch of the imagination, so we’ll have to see what his role is this year.
All in all, a solid beginning to the 2023 squad, and many more will be announced soon. Many reasons to be excited!
To conclude, I have to tip my hat to Derrall and everyone running the CFC socials. Producing so much content through the offseason has to be difficult but they are putting in the work. Look around at other clubs at this level and no one is even close. California United Strikers hasn’t even tweeted once since they lost in the playoffs. It’s easy to stay excited and engaged with the club when we have a hard working, interactive media team.
There is so much to be excited for. Tell your friends about the game with Atlanta and support your local club. See you at Finley in a month!
It was a frustrating night at Finley Stadium as Chattanooga fell short against the Michigan Stars. After a surprise result in California, the winner of this match was assured to host the final. Unfortunately, a second half header from Leon Maric was the difference as the season ended prematurely for the boys in blue.
On paper, there wasn’t really much to split the two sides. There were few clear chances in the match, and the big one was taken by the Stars.
After the goal, the Stars closed up shop and that was that.
It was always going to be a close match, and it was just unfortunate that Chattanooga didn’t grab a goal.
First, I’ll address the refereeing as that seems to be a hot topic. Going against much of the twitterverse, I don’t think the red card decision, right or wrong, made that much of an impact on the game. With fifteen minutes left, Michigan had their goal and weren’t about to concede. If anything, it felt like the CFC players pushed harder after going down to ten men.
The Michigan style of play is certainly frustrating for opposition, and not easy on the eye, but it’s legal and it works. The boys in blue took the bait of the style and got punished for it. Taking off the navy glasses, if my team (say, the Arsenal, or whoever you support) won like this, I would feel relieved but not guilty. It’s a way to play and it got the job done.
The game for me was lost in the first half. There were several chances for the boys in blue and they simply had to be taken. We knew what the Stars would do, and scoring first was necessary. Going into the half without a goal, you could just feel that things were going to go south.
The Season as a Whole
I for one have enjoyed year one of the Rod Underwood era. He promised more exciting football and we got it. Maybe I wasn’t paying as much attention in the past but I can’t remember a time before where we could walk into every game hoping for goals (with an s!) at this level.
Despite the way the season ended, Chattanooga and Cali are definitely the two best teams in NISA. The tactics and individual talent on display in two fixtures between them was well above the rest.
I have all sorts of thoughts and musings on the game and the season but overall I’m walking away from the season with a good feeling. Chattanooga FC still leads the way in independent, community based soccer and to me that’s worth more than any trophy. Personally, jumping in on the content creation has been a blast. Despite being inconsistent, I feel I’ve made the NISAverse just a little better and I’m excited for even more next year. Thanks for the support, and let’s keep supporting our boys in blue tomorrow and forever.
Taking a quick look back at the last time these two teams met, just under a month ago. Back then we were living in a two division world. Oh how the times have changed.
There really wasn’t a ton to split the two sides. I remember thinking in the first half that it was the most entertaining no-score game I had seen in a while- you could see the teams feeling each other out, the tactical plans being implemented- truly the two best teams in NISA.
The graph says it all- there was only one big chance in the game and it was taken. Looked like the players got drawn out of position from a quick corner-throw in combo and Cali took advantage.
Again, not much to split the sides. It was never going to be a blowout in either direction.
I remember walking away feeling good about the effort the team put in. I know some were disappointed with the tactical setup but it shut down some of the most dangerous players in the league while still generating a few chances up top. Since then, the results haven’t gone our way, but on that day I was happy.
What I Want To See Tonight
Set pieces into the box. This is not a naïve California team, it will be hard to bamboozle them with unusual routines. Give the guys a chance, put the ball in the danger zone.
Work the keeper. If there is one thing my xG model likes (and therefore is characteristic of a good NISA goal), it is a keeper off his line. That means balls coming in from endline, lofted balls that he can’t decide whether to claim, unselfish passes across goal- things that don’t let him get set before having to dive and save. That’s what I would really love to see. I know, easy to say, hard to do, especially against this Cali defense.
Effort. If we lose, so be it- as long as we see a desire to win from the guys. We want to be proud of the team at the end of the day, and so we will if they play for the badge tonight.
A Friendly Reminder
I haven’t kept up this blog, in large part, because the original purpose- timely, thorough match recaps- is now being fulfilled on the club website, such as this recap of our last game against Cali. But, the work on here is fun because numbers are fun. As always, thanks for your support, and let’s cheer on our boys in blue tonight!
Chattanooga FC won three points in style with a 3-0 win over the Maryland Bobcats. The game was done and dusted at the half, with Maryland legs tired from a big midweek win over the California United Strikers.
On the surface, it might appear a fairly even match with a lopsided result; the cumulative graph below will explain why. But, you have to put shots on target to do that, and Maryland was unable to test KG even once.
You can see that by halftime Chattanooga had generated plenty of chances while keeping Maryland largely at bay; they did slow down after the half, and Maryland got a few more looks but none good enough to score. Hopefully the slowdown in Chattanooga output manifests itself in the form of fresh legs in the midweek.
The Flow of Attack: Expected Assists (kind of)
Big thanks to Matt for going through and tagging on primary and secondary passes leading to each shot. While we’ve been seeing who takes the shots at what quality, now we can see who’s teeing them up. This is far from perfect; we’re not weighing in how directly the pass sets up the shot. For example, Taylor Gray’s goal came out as 0.301 xG (expected goals), so we attribute 0.301 xA (expected assists) to Ian Cerro who played the through ball. We can even go two passes back to look at Matt’s favorite, the hockey assist.
Still playing around with this graphic, but here we can sort of see who’s getting the best chances and who’s helping make them happen.
The Christmas Tree formation was cool, very structured, and limited chances from the opposition very well, but also lacked a bit going forward. Brett Jones worked so hard up top, making all sorts of dangerous runs, but he felt pretty isolated much of the time.
Looking at the formation from last game, we have more of a 4-3-3 than a 4-3-2-1. Those two wingers have made a world of difference, as has the target man in the middle. Taylor Gray and Alex Jaimes (and Brett Jones for a majority of this unbeaten streak) make runs in behind, then have Markus Naglestad to look for in the middle. There’s enough talent in the midfield, especially with our anchor captain Richard Dixon, to let players crash on the opportunities created by the wingmen. Along with Naglestad’s holdup play, it’s a real dangerous attack. That’s the fundamental difference that my untrained eyes see.
Coming Up: California United Strikers
This is the biggest game yet. I think it’s safe to assume that there will be playoff soccer at Fort Finley this fall; the question is how many games. A win over the Strikers Wednesday would be a huge step in getting the NISA final in the Scenic City. Fitting as we sit on the anniversary of the highest attended amateur game in the US ever, right here in Chattanooga.
The Strikers looked unbeatable, until the Bobcats finally broke them down last week. After that, the Strikers had a physical battle with the Stars, so hopefully they’re worn out for Wednesday. They haven’t been in the habit of banging in goals like Chattanooga, winning by more modest score lines. I would make a prediction, but instead I’ll just be at Finley to see for myself.
Thanks for reading! And thanks for the support- I haven’t been the most consistent, but it means a lot that people are still interested in the stats. I enjoy stats and writing and it’s a bonus to have it read!
The men of Chattanooga FC earned three points last time out against a stout Syracuse defense. Chattanooga opened the scoring via a Greg Stratton tap-in following a masterful set piece routine (.905 xG). Kaleb Jackson tied things up before the break with a goal deserved from his first half efforts (.391 xG). The Syracuse defense denied many chances in the second half but ultimately conceded a penalty to the most in-form player in NISA, Markus Naglestad (whose name we can now pronounce) who slotted home comfortably for the winner (.828 xG).
Overall, the result justly reflected the chances created by each team. We might note that without the late penalty, a draw would’ve been deserved.
The first half was pretty open, with Syracuse opting to use the high press early which has been perhaps one of CFC’s greatest weaknesses this season. Peter Fuller decided to close up shop in the second half, pretty effectively cutting off the flow of chances on both ends, perhaps taking a note from the Star’s visit a week earlier. He would’ve got away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling Norwegian.
No matter how many times the game is simulated, Chattanooga is just about guaranteed to score the same two goals as they were both high percentage. However, Syracuse had some good chances themselves, and could have easily slipped in two goals as well.
A win was the most likely outcome (2.032 xP), and the boys in blue are flying high in the east division as a result.
As for personal, non-statistical thoughts, I think just about every game we watch at Finley from now on will be similar to this. There seems to be a formula for taking the threat out of the Chattanooga possession that the opposition coaches are picking up on. If CFC doesn’t score early to unsettle the opposition as in most of the wins in this unbeaten streak, the opposition can really dig in and try to hold out. It will be very interesting to see if either of the New York sides on this road trip attempt anything other than to hold out for a draw, and if we can quickly break down the block.
It’s not too long now until playoffs come into discussion, so I have a hard to read graph to predict the future of the east. In the graph below, the solid lines represent games actually played/points earned, and the dotted lines represent the best and worst form the team has displayed this season, creating a “funnel of possibility”
The next step for me will be to add percentages, but we’re seeing that if the Chattanooga train continues on the same tracks, we’re pretty likely to see NISA playoffs at Finley Stadium. This is good news for Chattanooga’s premier professional club!
Chattanooga FC shared the spoils with the LA Force in a midweek road matchup.
There wasn’t too much to split the sides, with Chattanooga generating just a few more chances.
The boys in blue created their best chances in the first half, getting their deserved goal right off the bat. I don’t know that we’ve ever witnessed a more prolific scorer in Chattanooga colors before but Markus Naglestad is simply a monster right now.
The Force picked up the pace in the second half and got a goal they just about earned.
Simulating the game back, the game was pretty much destined for a draw, if not a narrow win on either side. There weren’t any massive chances; it was a very physical battle that lacked some of the great flowing play we’ve been seeing.
Again, neither side should have expected too much more than they got, except perhaps Chattanooga will rue not putting the game to bed in the first half.
Michigan should be taking notes as this is the first opponent to truly keep the Chattanooga attack in check since our road trip to Maryland. Expect a physical game tomorrow night!
The women of Chattanooga FC fell just short against a stacked Alabama FC side in the first game of Saturday’s double header at Finley Stadium. The scoreline was a marked improvement over the 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture and reflective of a CFC side that is growing in cohesion and confidence.
The two sides sent in the same number of shots, but Alabama FC created just a few more dangerous chances and were able to convert. Alabama FC’s raw xG was 2.031 but combining the triple chance that led to goal number two (0.091, 0.34, and 0.896 all combined to a 0.938 chance of at least one going in) brings them to 1.642 xG.
The CFC women seemed to emphasize possession, holding onto the ball well even into the opposition half, but without finding much possession or opportunity in the final stretch of the pitch. Alabama FC was happy to absorb pressure, win the ball back, and push it forward quickly, relying on pacey strikers that were camped on the shoulders of the back line. CFC’s offside trap worked a majority of the time, but Alabama’s first goal came from a perfectly timed run exploiting the space behind the back line.
The damage was done in the first half for Alabama FC. I’m not sure if tactics changed or legs got tired, but Chattanooga opened things up in the second half, but still was unable to pull back two goals.
For me, Jacqueline Montes was the deserved woman of the match after a goal and a great shift up top. Listening to the commentary, that Alabama FC team was truly stacked and we should be proud to be in the game all the way to the final whistle. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this squad!
What a thrilling game that was! Chattanooga FC held off a late comeback from Bay Cities to secure three wins on the spin and top spot in the east with the least games played.
Though the chances were few, they were high quality as Chattanooga deservedly netted more than their western visitors. With 11 goals in 3 games, the attacking swagger that was hiding at the beginning of the season is in full force.
Chattanooga looked comfy going into the half, but a change in tactics from Anders Perez busted the game open- but to his team’s detriment. All the space in behind the Bay Cities defense left space for CFC’s pacey attack to deliver what I would argue some of the most entertaining soccer seen this season. The goals that Bay Cities did score were well taken but not high percentage shots. The flow of the game was always in Chattanooga’s favor.
Given the chances created, if this game was played out a thousand times, we’d expect Chattanooga to pick up the win most of the time, expecting on average 2.909 of the 3 available points from the match.
How much fun was it to watch Taylor Gray- he’s not afraid to pull off skills on the field, and now that he’s found his shooting boots, he’ll be one of the top threats in the league. This attack as a whole is really enjoyable to watch.
If you’re not excited for what’s happening in Chattanooga, you haven’t been watching. The coaching staff and the players are taking things to the next level. I can put out all the numbers I want, but the results on the field speak for themselves. It’s a good time to be a CFC fan!
Chattanooga FC dominated eastern division foes Flower City Union Saturday night. A four-goal haul from Markus Naglestad highlighted the most dominate performance of any NISA team this season. This was the first time a player netted four times in a game for Chattanooga FC as well as the first of any NISA player.
Chattanooga deserved every goal, generating a whopping 4.35 xG. To put that in perspective, the next highest this season was 3.5 as Maryland blitzed Flower City in week 2. The average has been floating around the 1.5 range. Usually I would include possession too, but without the clock on the eleven broadcast it’s super difficult to track accurately. However, I’m rather confident the field was tilted in Chattanooga’s favor a majority of the match.
Chattanooga had no problem generating chance after chance. There seemed to be some extra impetuous in the CFC attack to possess the ball in dangerous areas and create chance after chance. You can see above that there weren’t that many swathes in the game without some attack, although the team slowed down in the second half having already put the game to bed by halftime.
Markus Naglestad was of course the standout performer, scoring 4 goals from 1.85 xG, the most xG generated by a single player in a NISA game, overtaking Ian Cerro on opening day (remember penalty save and tap-in). It was great seeing the whole team pour forward in attack. Earlier in the season it seemed like players at the top of the Christmas Tree were getting isolated when breaking forward, but CFC threw plenty of bodies forward and the front three felt like a real front three. Markus Naglestad sort of reminds me of Olivier Giroud, holding up the ball to distribute to players around and scoring bangers.
With this result and the extra points against Valley United, Chattanooga FC are poised to take first with a win over Bay Cities on Saturday. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were bottom of the pile, but as I noted then, the team is playing great, fluke results will come, but in the end the proof is in the pudding and this pudding has CFC rising towards the top.
A Note in Methodology
These stats missed the usual 48-hours-after-kickoff window as I realized my xG model was starting to devalue good shots. I was using logistic regression to predict xG, but several outlier shots started to stretch the scale of the regression.
To mix things up, I started using decision trees like the one below. Basically, R takes all the shot observations and starts choosing the best way to split them up into groups. After generating a thousand unique trees, I then find the average outcome to predict the xG of a shot. In the future, I may just use this to pull out the bulk of shots that were never going in and regress the rest. Data exploration like this is why I even started this project. If you have ideas to use feel free to reach out!
Well, that felt good! Chattanooga FC took all three points back to the Scenic City after a win over current East Division leaders Maryland Bobcats. The weather looked horrendous but CFC turned fortunes around to get the first NISA win of the season. New signing Chris Bermudez featured and Markus Naglestad got his first start of the season as Rod Underwood mixed up the lineup for the first time since he was forced to from the Franky Martinez injury.
The game wasn’t full of chances, with neither team generating any high percentage shots. In the end, it was clinical finishing that got CFC the win.
Chattanooga was determined to play out of the back, especially in the first half where nearly 40% of their possession was in their own defensive quarter. In the second half, CFC did a better job stopping the ball further up the field and had more developing play away from their goal. CFC was quick to move the ball forward, and the possession would be tilted much further forward were it not for the efforts of the Maryland backline to keep players offside. The CFC block did very well to keep Maryland away from goal, giving them only long range looks at goal.
After scoring goal number two, Chattanooga really closed up shop on both ends of the field, controlling the game well. Maryland’s goal came from a lucky deflection from a free kick:
But my goodness, what a goal from Alex McGrath, finishing off an olympico:
And of course, returning player Markus Naglestad made the difference in his first start this season:
Overall, that was a good game to watch, and I felt that CFC had control for most of it. I am always blown away by the fluidity of personnel in this formation, with players filling in for each other and rotating around all the time. It looked like the boys in blue knew how important the game was and they played hard for 90 minutes. Let’s hope for more of the same in our return fixture with Flower City next week.
Context in the League
I know there was a lot of disappointment after the loss to FCU last week, but I feel great about CFC’s position right now. I propose a few points:
Chattanooga is the only eastern team to have played on a western road trip.
Chattanooga is the only eastern team to have played against the statistically best in the league, Valley United
Maryland only has wins against Flower City and Syracuse
Michigan only has wins against Flower City and Syracuse (by forfeit)
Syracuse only has wins against Flower City
Over two matches against Maryland, Chattanooga has only conceded from free kicks
Yes, it would have been nice to win our two home games- I think those were just flukes. The results will come in front of the best crowd in NISA. Chattanooga has already gotten some of the worst of the schedule out of the way and can easily top the East if they continue to play like this.
For a more event based, less opinionated summary of the match, visit here.