CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – After a thrilling 120 minutes, Chattanooga F.C. defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves 1-0 to earn its way into the 2011 U.S. Open Cup.
Chris Ochieng finally broke the deadlock in the 116th minute. Chattanooga lofted a free kick into the Atlanta box and the ball fell softly to Ochieng, who had time to control the ball and put it past Silverbacks Reserves goalkeeper Eric Ati.
The teams had been evenly matched throughout the game, with chances coming on both ends. Most notably for Atlanta was a shot in the 20th minute by Tornubari Nyonebue. The Atlanta striker hit a right-footed shot that deflected off the back of a Chattanooga defender, stranding goalkeeper Thomas Hunter. Fortunately for the Tennessee side, the ball ricocheted off the crossbar and fell to safety.
Deni Lulic of the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves gets tangled up Chattanooga F.C.'s Ivan Heredia.
In the 33rd minute, Silverbacks Reserves forward Nick Burton drove in on the left side of the box and forced Hunter into another great save. Throughout the game Atlanta peppered the Chattanooga goal but Hunter came up big each time. He was credited with six saves for the game.
Each team found itself with a great chance to win the game at regulation. First, Atlanta’s Alejandro Duque forced Hunter into a great save on a free kick from just outside the box. On the other end, Luke Winter had a free kick from nearly the same distance but put his shot over the bar.
As the teams headed to extra time, Silverbacks Reserves Head Coach Ricardo Montoya was ejected, leaving him to watch the remainder of the game from the press box.
In the first 15-minute extra period, Atlanta continued to dominate possession but could not put anything on goal. Towards the end of the period, Atlanta defender and captain Ramiro Canovas, the only player on the Silverbacks Reserves’ roster with U.S. Open Cup experience, had to be subbed out. In his place came Fabian Irigoyen and Atlanta would miss Canovas’ height and experience dearly.
The goal by Ochieng in the 116th minute sent the home supporters into a frenzy and Chattanooga held on to claim their first berth in the U.S. Open Cup as the representative of the NPSL Southeast Division.