The Chattanooga FC women’s team lost 3-2 to the Gulf Coast Texans on Saturday night at Finley Stadium, but coach Erin Ridley saw something more from the match than a season-ending defeat.
As she wrapped up her first season in charge of CFC, Ridley took note of potential and growth.
Ridley came into the position asking a lot from the team with the style of play she expected. Despite a 1-5-2 record and a last-place finish in the Women’s Premier Soccer League’s South Conference’s Southeast Division, the coach believes she gained a lot in return after asking so much of her players.
“I got a little emotional at the end talking to them, because it is sad that (the season) is over,” Ridley said. “It has been a group that has done everything that I have asked them to do. They bought in, they have worked their tails off.”
And, Ridley said, that buy-in attitude was where she saw the most promise.
“Its not easy to play the way I’m asking them to play,” Ridley said. ” I am asking them to take risks, I am asking them to build out of the back, I am asking them to make very tactful decisions that have really good, clean technique. It’s high risk, high reward — you risk certain things in order to get rewarded, and sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t.”
CFC was a few minutes and another goal — or two — short of a high reward Saturday night against the division-leading Texans (6-0-2).
Gulf Coast led 3-0 just 15 minutes into the match, with those quick goals coming from a lack of domination in the midfield on CFC’s part, Ridley said.
“If we are not on the right side of the player or we are not tracking back, games are won and lost in the midfield,” she said. “We lost the first half in the midfield, we really did, and that’s not to say that one midfielder is to blame, we just didn’t dominate that space. As a result, you could see our defenders were on their back foot and (Gulf Coast was) able to capitalize on just a few options.”
After halftime, CFC showed improvement and cut into the big deficit when Lizzy Shaughnessy converted a penalty kick in the 56th minute, her team-leading sixth goal of the season. Ashley Manning netted her second goal of the season when she scored in the 84th minute.
“I think you could really see us getting into a rhythm, knocking the ball around and making good decisions,” Ridley said. “That was all we talked about at halftime, was being bold enough to make those decisions early. We changed that in the second half, and you can see what kind of team we have.”
Now Ridley is looking forward to next season — and the next step in the process.
“It would be easy to revert back to just playing a longer ball or chasing it down trying to dig it out, and we certainly have players that can dig the ball out,” Ridley said. “But you can see how special it is when we can act.”