Chattanooga FC 0 Flower City Union 1: Nooga by the Numbers

Chattanooga FC gifted 3 points to visiting Flower City Union Saturday night, FCU’s first points as a pro team and CFC’s first loss in NISA play of the season.

Chattanooga FC controlled large swathes of the game, keeping massive amounts of possession in dangerous areas- you can see below that CFC had more of the ball in FCU’s half than FCU did.

This possession did not lack threat; chances totaled to 2.37 xG, more than CFC’s previous two NISA games combined (and better than all previous games except against that little team in Memphis- wild).

You can see that for the first ~20 minutes of the second half, CFC didn’t hold much threat, which really changed with about 15 minutes left. The commentators on Eleven correctly noted that one massive difference was the space Brett Jones had in behind the defense of FCU. I’m not intelligent enough to know how that changed, but CFC had a lot of joy putting balls over and through the defense for Brett Jones to run onto in the first half. Brett did get called offside several times at the beginning of the second half- FCU’s backline must’ve talked it out at the half. It also seems to me that Ian Cerro and Taylor Gray struggled to get on the ball in the second half, and they got subbed off for Damian Rodriguez and Roddy Green Jr. who did wonders in re-establishing the attacking threat. I don’t know what to think of those last 15 minutes other than CFC was just massively unlucky. The guys pinned in FCU, put in all sorts of corners and crosses, hit the woodwork three times; not much more you can do tactically, the ball just has to find the back of the net.

If I had to have a criticism of the “Christmas Tree” formation and how it’s played out the last few matches, it might be that the 4-3-2-1 seems to become a 4-5-1 rather than 4-3-3 which leaves Brett Jones isolated pretty often. We’ve seen some incredible footwork and work rate from Brett Jones, but it seems like he often isn’t getting enough support to take advantage of some breakaways where he then has no option but to shoot. It would be cool to see a second striker for more than twenty minutes.

I’m interested to see if the lineup changes next weekend. Roddy Green Jr. has looked really good coming on the last few games, plus started on opening weekend, so he’s my pick for most likely to shake up the lineup. But, of course, I trust Rod and Co. to make the best decisions for the team.

The fullbacks were also standout performers for me this game, doing really well to step and make interceptions as well as overlap in attack. They probably do that well every game, it just stuck out to me this week.

Should we be concerned? I think not. That was a fluke result. CFC will turn it around. Brett will find his shooting boots. Several great individual performances, and a fantastic crowd. The atmosphere was great the whole game thanks in large part to the passion of the Chattahooligans, the best supporters around. Y’all are awesome!

Atlanta United 6-0 Chattanooga FC: Nooga by the Numbers

Chattanooga FC dropped out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a defeat to defending champions and MLS side Atlanta United. This was Chattanooga’s first Open Cup match against an MLS club. The boys in blue worked hard against one of the best teams in the nation but ended up with an unflattering scoreline against brutally clinical opponents.

Atlanta didn’t generate massively dangerous chances according to my NISA xG model (2.6 xG to CFC’s 0.23)- they are just a class above, as you would expect from an MLS side. That extra space that would be fine to concede to a NISA opponent was clinically punished. KG’s tendency to work off his line, which once again works great in NISA, was exposed by the nation’s best.

The bright spot for me (and the fans that voted for man of the match) was Richard Dixon and his role in the middle of the park. He bossed it up and made some great tackles. I also loved when Damian Rodriguez came on- I was sitting opposite the Chattahooligans and right in front of where Damian was dribbling around and having a blast. So great to watch. Roddy Green looked hungry for goals when he came on, Ian Cerro and Taylor Gray had some good moments, KG kept the score in check- all of the team worked hard and it was great to watch despite the end result.

I didn’t spend too much time on this because it’s a busy week and it’s not a result that’s great to dwell on, but I will say on no uncertain terms that the guys at CFC should be so proud of their performance, and double proud for the previous performance that got them to this point. What a great team to support.

Next up is Flower City Union at home- frankly we haven’t had an easy game yet this season, but FCU is a team we should be able to dominate. I’m excited to see if we keep the Christmas Tree Formation against weaker opposition like this.

For a more event based recap, check out the club website– but as always, I appreciate you reading and all your support!

Valley United FC 0 Chattanooga FC 0: Nooga by the Numbers 2022

Chattanooga FC went on the road to West Division leaders Valley United FC and came home with a point after a goalless draw on Friday night. The visitors were out shot 15-3 (4-1 on target) but held on against an in-form Valley side.

Chattanooga FC struggled to get the ball forward in the match with Valley United employing a very effective pressing style that kept CFC pinned in their own half. While CFC actually ended up with more possession, it was hardly in threatening areas and the forwards were rarely involved.

In terms of chance creation, Chattanooga only had one big chance in each half, where Brett Jones did his usual solo run and quick shot in the first half and an outstretched Alex McGrath *just* missed the target in the second half. Valley United, on the other hand, created loads of chances- or should I say CFC gifted them loads of chances? CFC was determined to play out of the back, but they conceded chance after chance from giving the ball away cheaply much to close to their own goal.

The match almost seemed like a mirror image of the Memphis game last week. Rather than sitting back and respecting Memphis like might be expected, CFC took the game to Memphis with pressure that conceded possession but not in dangerous areas. The same happen with Valley United- they had less possession, but ran the game territorially, not allowing CFC into dangerous areas. Just speculating, maybe Rod Underwood & Co. were not expecting the high press from Valley and the subsequent need for such tight passing around the back. CFC are lucky to leave Mesa with a point.

That point comes in large part thanks to the work of Kevin Gonzalez, who was named man of the match after facing four shots on target and saving them all to keep his first clean sheet of the season. KG also came off his line to make a number of crucial claims, marking his territory in the 18 and a little beyond. Well done Kevin!

With this, Chattanooga FC sit fourth in the East Division, but there’s not too much to worry about. Maryland already have 7 points, but 6 are against the two worst teams in the division. Inversely, we’ve now taken a point off Maryland and Western leaders Valley. There’s still a lot to play for but we’ve gotten a few of the tougher games out of the way early.

Next up CFC face the big boys in Atlanta United- let’s hope for heavy rotation and lots of luck. See you in Kennesaw Wednesday!

Note: I’ve been asked to do match recaps for the official CFC website. For more formal, less speculative summaries, visit the website.

Chattanooga FC 3-1 Memphis 901: Nooga by the Numbers

The Chattanooga FC Men’s side got the better of USL Championship side Memphis 901 in the second round of the US Open Cup on Thursday night. The match had been years in the making, with the two clubs being drawn in the ill-fated 2020 rendition of the tournament and playing behind closed doors this preseason. A tactical masterclass from Rod Underwood and his crew resulted in a well deserved victory for the boys in blue.

There were two sides to the coin in this matchup. For the casual observer, Memphis 901’s 63% possession, paired with a whopping 22 shots, would imply that Memphis bossed the game and Chattanooga were lucky to come away with the result. However, Memphis’s possession didn’t really result in any threat. Below is a cumulative Expected Goals chart for the game. For each shot taken, you can see the quality of the chance by how much the line jumps. We can see that Chattanooga were very good at creating high quality chances, while Memphis took lots more shots but none of real quality. The Chattanooga defense was set up perfectly to prevent Memphis from getting any good looks on goal.

It’s also worth looking at the territorial possession below. Chattanooga had very little presence in their attacking half, which I think speaks volumes to the quality the attackers possessed to generate such high quality chances from so little. Inversely, big props to the defense for seeing so much opposition possession in their own half but really preventing any high quality chances. As the great Jose Mourinho said, “Memphis can take the ball home, but we’ll take the third round berth.”

I think we can place special notice on set pieces- there was obviously some extra work put in this week to generate chances from these and Memphis were not prepared. Also, despite the low possession, Chattanooga employed an excellent pressing style that paid immediate dividends for the first goal and prevented Memphis from settling into the match. Well done Chattanooga.

Taylor Gray was voted man of the match- I personally had it between Brett Jones, who spearheaded the press and was instrumental in the first two goals, and Richard Dixon, the captain who did a wonderful job organizing the stout defense and worked hard to break up the Memphis play. If we could give MOTM to all the players we would, they all deserve it after so thoroughly besting a team in the tier above.

What’s next in the Open Cup? I would love to finally play our cross town rivals… nevermind. Chattanooga FC travels away to defending Open Cup champions Atlanta United for the chance to cause an even greater upset. Regardless of the result, we can be immensely proud of the guys at CFC.

Chattanooga FC 1 Maryland Bobcats FC 1: Nooga by the Numbers 2022

The Chattanooga FC men’s side opened the 2022 NISA campaign with a 1-1 draw against Eastern rivals Maryland Bobcats FC at Finley Stadium on a windy Saturday afternoon. This match marked the beginning of the much anticipated Rod Underwood era in the Scenic City.

Before the game started, we were given a lovely tree-shaped formation featuring 3 CFC returners and many NISA transfers in the Starting XI. When I first saw it, I thought maybe CFC were being a bit dishonest on social media to prevent any tactical hints, but was surprised to see the guys follow this shape very strictly, with Dixon more often tucked in the middle of the midfield trio and the fullbacks pushing high up in possession. The team was certainly set up to control possession and win the ball back quickly. The guys also did really well rotating around, covering for each other when a player went forward or got out of position. This helped nullify most of the Bobcats’ attacking threat.

CFC accumulated 1.58 xG from 7 shots in the match; this is artificially inflated by Cerro’s double take below:

If we lump this chance into one, CFC still ends the match with 1.15 xG, the highest in the league this weekend.

The game didn’t have a large amount of chances, with the Bobcats’ best chances coming from free kicks. Darwin Espinal’s free kick that slammed off the post was the first shot of the match, and a nearly mirror-image free kick on the opposite end resulted in the Bobcats’ equalizer, which cancelled out Ian Cerro’s earlier penalty take that was won from a great run by Alex McGrath that saw him taken down from behind. The guys in gold had a few chances to tuck away the game, most notably Brett Jones’ effort that floored a defender and rattled off the inside of the woodwork. However, in the end, the game was destined for a draw.

Overall, I was very pleased with the team’s performance, and thought we were unlucky to walk away without all three points. Compared to last season, I felt that we were much more patient in possession; last year there seemed to be so many forced long balls forward, but these guys are picking out the right pass and only putting through very intentional long balls (and the wind certainly didn’t help those). McGrath and Cerro did an excellent job moving the ball up the pitch, our forwards did a great job getting into space, and we got to witness the best dribbler in the league, Damien Rodriguez, work some magic.

Ian Cerro was officially named man on the match, which I agree with. He will be so important for CFC this year. A close second for me was Franky Martinez. I enjoyed watching his composure on the ball, good passing, and solid defense. I mentioned earlier that we generated the most xG of any team this week; we also faced the second least, thanks to some solid defensive work.

There is no reason not to be deliriously excited for this season; the new signings are great, coaching staff is great, and the Scenic City is great. Maybe we’ll grab all three points next time out away to AC Syracuse!

My Way-Too-Early 2022 NISA Season Predictions

It’s here! NISA has finally published the 2022 schedule. This gives us insight into the format of the competition, the notable absence of Chicago House AC and New Amsterdam FC, and four new clubs.

Every team will play home and away with teams from the opposite coast and home and away twice with those on the same coast (East- CFC, Maryland, Michigan, Syracuse, Flower City; West- Cal Utd, LA Force, Bay City, Valley Utd, Albion). That’s a total of 26 games a piece.

In anticipation of the new season, I’ve scrolled through Twitter, looked at results from the last few seasons, judged Wikipedia pages, and racked my brain to predict the outcome of the coming 2022 season. There are four big battles I’ll be looking at:

The Battle for First: California United Strikers vs LA Force

Detroit City FC absolutely dominated last season, but with Le Rouge moving onwards to the USL Championship, the top spot in NISA is up for grabs. Looking back at last season’s results, team forms, and playing styles, California United and LA Force stood out to me as the most likely to take the NISA pole position. These two were the only others capable of finding relatively consistent form throughout the season. They both like to press high, not letting the opposition get out of their own half. Cal United and LA Force tended to play with more of a “shoot-on-sight” offense compared to a Detroit side who played really selflessly and maturely in creating fewer, high-quality chances. However, there’s no reason this strategy won’t work again for last year’s second and third placed teams. Both are already publicly training in the preseason, but California edges first for me because of how sleek that Taco Bell sponsor looks and because LA Force has just swapped managers.

The Battle for the East: Chattanooga FC, Maryland Bobcats FC, Michigan Stars FC

I think this is going to be the best battle in NISA for 2022 (maybe I’m a little biased). Chattanooga FC and Maryland Bobcats are two of the best run clubs in terms of overall brand, media presence, etc., and will be hoping that translates into results on the pitch. I was there for that first match between the two sides when Zeca slammed the crossbar from a bicycle kick with one of his last touches as a pro and one of our better rivalries was born. Throwing Michigan Stars into the mix, these now seasoned and competitive NISA teams will have a great battle for what I’m guessing will be 3rd-5th spots in the league. Since each team plays the others four times, results within this mini league will reflect right onto the overall standings. I think Rod Underwood and crew coming over from Stumptown will give Chattanooga FC the edge and a third-place finish.

One More Playoff Spot: Albion San Diego, Flower City Union, Valley United

I know that the season will end with playoffs, and I thought I had read that the top six teams would be participating. I can’t find any details on the playoffs posted now, so I may have read that of a previous season, but consider this another prediction: a six team playoff would be a very NISA move. (Update: this is the official format, no maybe about it) One more team will get to dance and it’s hard to guess which one it will be. So far most teams have released very little in terms of personnel. A few of them have released little in terms of anything. I’m giving Albion San Diego a chance because they know what NISA play is like (albeit they did terrible last season- third most consistent form in the league behind Detroit and Cal Utd, except mostly L’s instead of W’s). Flower City Union seems to have a decent setup, sliding into the void left by the Rochester Rhinos a few years ago and affiliating with NPSL side Rochester Lancers. Valley United has experience in the USPL, participated in the Independent Cup last year, and has a U23 side in NISA Nation. I think Valley United have the best chance of the new clubs to break into the playoffs.

Playing for Pride: Albion San Diego, AC Syracuse, Bay Cities FC

Somebody has to come in last, but no one wants to do it. I anticipate these teams playing for pride this season where every point will count. Can the Albion improve on last season’s form? Will Syracuse and Bay Cities find eleven players? Really hard to tell. I can just imagine newly formed Bay Cities getting battered every other week by Cal Utd and LA Force. I don’t have to imagine that happening to Albion because we saw it last season (didn’t grab a single point off their fellow Californians). And finally, the Pulse will be seen as a necessary three points by the other teams in the East jostling for third. Once again, we know so little about these teams that it’s hard to predict much about them.

My Final Standings Prediction

  1. California United Strikers
  2. LA Force
  3. Chattanooga FC
  4. Maryland Bobcats FC
  5. Michigan Stars FC
  6. Valley United
  7. Flower City Union
  8. Albion San Diego
  9. AC Syracuse
  10. Bay Cities FC

So much can change before the season starts though. If Chattanooga FC sign Robert Lewandowski or some American equivalent then the game changes. As the title says, it’s way too early to guess. Go ahead and bookmark this page so you can come back and be impressed in six months. You heard it here first. Thanks for reading.

Chicago House AC 2 Stumptown AC 1: Nooga by the Numbers 2021 Rewind

Not familiar with xG? Click here!

This match was already next on my list to see more of Rod Underwood in action, but given Chattanooga FC’s signing activities of the last week, there’s much to see in this late season matchup between Chicago House AC and Stumptown (Stumpnooga?) AC at the SeatGeek Stadium. Four of CFC’s new signings started (three for Stumptown, one for Chicago) as Chicago House found a 2-1 victory over Stumptown.

Much of the game was spent in a scuffle of attrition; neither team was able to settle into a rhythm as both opted for a high tempo, high press game. Nearly every touch was challenged, with neither team opting to sit back behind the ball. Chicago House pressed really high up, recording more possession in Stumptown’s half than their own. 63% of the battle took place in the middle of the park, with the two teams sharing under 15% of the ball in attacking areas, meaning most of the chances created came from quick counterattacking play. In the melee, chances fell to both teams throughout both halves. Stumptown found the back of the net first, but the ball had just edged out of bounds in the build up to rule out the goal. The teams went in level at the break but came back out with the same intensity, and Chicago House finally put one past the Stumps in the 53rd minute. Colin Stripling looked to have pulled back a point for Stumptown in the 79th minute, but Chicago pulled ahead in the 86th minute and didn’t give Stumptown another sniff at goal.

Of the new signings, I was happiest with Franky Martinez; very calm and collected on the ball, not drawn into unnecessary tackles, but physical when necessary. Stripling got Stumptown’s only goal of the game, and Cerro was involved in much of what was good in Chicago’s build up play. Both teams created plenty of chances, but neither midfield (nor standout new CFC signing) was really able to take control of the game. Stumptown’s woes once again came from a lack of target men up front to put the chances away. I’m certainly excited to see who Chattanooga FC signs up front for the 2022 season, as they will no doubt be backed up by one of the most talented midfields in the league. At the time of writing, Brett Jones is the only forward listed on CFC’s website; maybe we’ll see more soon!

Thank you for your support so far! I can’t wait to write these as the games happen rather than months later. Thanks!

Chattanooga FC 1 Michigan Stars FC 0: Nooga by the Numbers 2021 Rewind

Chattanooga FC came out on top in their final home game of the Fall 2021 season with a one-nil win over Michigan Stars FC courtesy of Damien Rodriguez’s first goal of his professional career. Three points were needed to keep CFC’s hopes of a top half finish alive and that’s exactly what the players and fans got on a cold night at Finley Stadium.

Not familiar with xG? Click here!

The game was a tale of two halves as CFC were quick off the blocks at the beginning of the game, dominating proceedings especially for the opening 25 minutes. CFC ended the first half with just about 60% of the possession, in threatening areas too. Michigan Stars failed to capitalize on a few dangerous fast breaks, and were ultimately punished when Damien Rodriguez slotted home in the 29th minute. Both defenses worked well in general to prevent that final pass needed to get a shot away, with only a few, high quality chances coming along. The game in general felt pretty slow- the ball was dead for nearly 18 minutes in the first half, with all sorts of throw ins and goal kicks being taken with no rush (for reference, the ball was dead for only 10 minutes in the first half of CFC v Stumptown).

The Stars realigned in the second half as Michigan flipped the possession script, holding the ball for much of the half in the middle of the park. In this flurry of possession, the Stars generated 1.07 xG, including a justly awarded penalty that was smashed onto the bar by Kyle Nuel. Alec Redington was called into action to make a few crucial saves in the dying moments of the game, ensuring that his clean sheet remained intact. Once again the game was played without much urgency, especially from the lead holders CFC. It felt like the ball was in Redington’s gloves most of the half, whether from claiming a cross or taking his time on a spot kick. Both keepers were bold in coming off their lines; the Stars’ penalty came from a failed Redington claim, and Zimbabwean international keeper Tatenda Mkuruva nearly crossed the halfway line a few times to win the ball. They both had me nervous!

Overall, Chattanooga FC may consider themselves lucky to walk away with three points; the Stars generated plenty of chances and Kyle Nuel was unlucky to miss his penalty attempt as well as a one-on-one chance in the first half that he fired over the bar. However, CFC were rewarded for their high press from the first whistle. The true star of the night was Damien Rodriguez, showing that dreams do come true as the Dalton native took his chance to shine with a goal in the 29th minute.

Stumptown AC 0 Chattanooga FC 1: Nooga by the Numbers 2021 Rewind

Chattanooga FC’s season ending trip to the Stumplex in Matthews, NC saw the Boys in Blue emerge victorious with a one-nil win over Stumptown AC. It was not a vintage performance but the three points were enough to see CFC rise to the top half of the NISA table after a campaign where we may have hoped for a bit more. We can look back on this match with extra intrigue as Stumptown’s then head coach Rod Underwood has since crossed over the mountains to join Chattanooga FC.

Not familiar with expected goals (xG)? Click here!

We can certainly empathize with Stumptown supporters who may feel that they deserved something from the match. Rod Underwood employed a possession-hungry “four-two-freedom” lineup that did very well retaining the ball and pinning in CFC for much of the game. Stumptown reached a staggering 63.8% possession, of which 38% was spent in CFC’s half of the pitch. This possession was not devoid of threat, with the team accumulating an xG of 1.48. Stumptown’s commentators on Eleven Sports touched on the topic of goal scoring throughout the match. The club has struggled massively to score throughout the season, and frankly doesn’t have an out-and-out striker to rely on. On a side note, I’m excited to see if this trend of Stumptown underscoring is constant throughout the season- I think we have some great strikers at CFC and if Underwood soccer is really creating chances then CFC will thrive this coming season!

Chattanooga FC sprung a few surprises in their lineup, opting to use a rarely seen back four and pushing the defensive stalwart Nick Spielman into more of a stopper position. Sitting back on 36.2% possession (with 61% in their own half) meant that CFC needed real quality in their outlets when they won the ball. Two players stood out the most going forward. James Kasak (who gave Stumptown nightmares in the reverse fixture) and Damien Rodriguez were CFC’s best players on the field, displaying great quality and skill as they provided CFC with progressive movement and passing. Rodriguez was the best of the lot providing quality end product as well, sending in crosses that resulted in a shot off the upright from Markus Naglestad in the first half and the lone goal (scored by Brett Jones or a Robert Hines own goal? Depends on who you ask) to seal the deal, even netting once himself, although it was called back for offsides. In total, CFC racked up an xG of 1.1, justly reflected in the score.

There were no big surprises in terms of flow of the game, with CFC starting the best in each half and Stumptown growing into each half. CFC did let Stumptown have a few quality looks on goal but they were of course unable to convert. Most of these chances didn’t even hit the frame; Alec Redington got his clean sheet, but the Stumptown strikers didn’t make him work very hard for it.

All in all, although it wasn’t Chattanooga’s best night out, they walked away with three points against a well structured Stumptown team that has struggled to score.

What is Expected Goals (xG)?

“Expected goals measures the quality of chances and how often we expect them to be scored.

All goals count the same in soccer, but some are a lot more difficult to put into the back of the net than others. Take for example these two goals scored by CFC last season:

Both of these goals go down as a shot on target and a goal, but just looking at the two we can see that Damien’s goal was a bit harder to convert than Markus’s; if we gave them both the same chance a hundred times, we would expect Markus to find the back of the net more often. Is there some way to quantify that difference? Of course! Expected goals measures the quality of chances and how often we expect them to be scored. Now, instead of seeing only the number of shots a team has taken, we can see how often we might expect them to score with all the chances they have in a match. This helps when looking at the flow of matches, as we can now tell if a team is creating quality chances or just getting lucky with wonder goals. We often find ourselves thinking “we deserved more from that match” or “we got away with that one” and now we have the numbers to back up our statements.

So, for the two chances above, our NISA xG model (which still needs more training before the season starts) thinks that shots similar to Damien’s will go in about 1% of the time at the NISA level, while Markus’s would go in about 61% of the time. This does a much better job at summarizing chances than flatly stating that both were shots on target.

How exactly is this xG model created? How is this one NISA specific? We’ll post about that soon!