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PREVIEW: Chattanooga FC ready to bounce back in first independent derby in league history

Duvan Viafara dribbles against Huntsville City

Chattanooga FC (3-1-2D, 1SOW, 12 pts - 3rd in East, 1st in Southeast Division) hosts Carolina Core FC (0-3-1D, 1SOW, 2 pts - 15th in East, 7th in Southeast Division) in the first battle of independent teams in MLS NEXT Pro history on Saturday, April 27th at 7:00 p.m. ET at Finley Stadium.

Chattanooga Football Club looks to right the ship after a tough 1-0 defeat on the road against Atlanta United 2. CFC was coming off two great wins against Inter Miami II and Huntsville City FC, but fell just short of finding any points in Kennesaw.

Their opponent for this weekend, Carolina Core, are winless in the league so far this season. However, the Core made an impressive run to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup in their first-ever appearance in the competition before being eliminated 1-0 by USL Championship side North Carolina FC. The Core also have their first eight matches in the league on the road. The club's home opener will be on June 1st at Truist Point.

CFC captain Alex McGrath is looking to get back on track after getting shutout in Atlanta. He leads the club in goals scored (4), minutes played (540 - joint-top with Anatolie Prepelita and Milo Garvanian), and shots on target (7).

"We just have to play our football," said McGrath. "We need to be on it from the start. It doesn't matter what your position on the table is in this league, especially in these early stages of the season, so it's always going to be difficult. You have to be prepared for every game. Each team in the league has quality, so if you're not 100% on the day, you'll get punished.

"We just have to bounce back quickly. The intensity has to be there from the start. It's the third game in a week, which can sometimes be difficult, but you have to find a way and that's what a season's about. You have to be consistent for a large period of time and that starts again tomorrow. Soccer's simple in a way. You're obviously trying to prevent goals and score more than the opposition, but if you have that freedom and our foundation of our style but being unpredictable as well will make it difficult for the other team. It's going to be a tough game. Every game is difficult and different, but as long as we're switched on from the start I know we've got the quality to be successful."

Underwood's pre-match thoughts

Sporting Director and Head Coach Rod Underwood previewed the matchup with fellow independent side Carolina Core.

“At the end of the day we're at a decent spot in the standings and we've put in some good performances and I feel pleased with my guys, but I'm not satisfied," said Underwood. "I really appreciate their hard work, desire, professionalism, dedication and their willingness to learn and to express themselves when they need to. I'm really happy about those qualities in this group.

"We went into Atlanta and they had only won one game and we were very clear that this level is quite good and the results in this league don't reflect the level of players that are on these teams. We're not taking this lightly by any means."

Rod Underwood greets Chattanooga FC's traveling fans

Know the Opponent

Carolina has scored three goals in the league so far and forward David "Pachi" Polanco has two of them to his name. Midfielder Jacob Evans scored the lone goal in their most recent league appearance—a 2-1 defeat by Chicago Fire II.

The Core generally switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation at the start of their most recent match at Chicago Fire II, however, they typicall set up in a 3-5-2, with Kai Thomas, Ibrahim Covi and Christian Diaz in a back-three.

The Core are led by a plethora of experienced and distinguished former MLS and national team players. Head Coach Roy Lassiter held the single-season goalscoring record in MLS before it was broken in 2018. Assistant Coach Amado Guevara was a former Honduras national team captain. Head Scout and Assistant Coach Andy Williams was a star forward for multiple MLS clubs and won MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake in 2009. Goalkeeping Coach Donovan Ricketts was a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, while Chief Sporting Officer Eddie Pope is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best defenders in U.S. national team history.

Other happenings around Finley

Tomorrow's match marks the opening of the newly-renovated Ultra Club! Located inside of Finley Stadium's Premium Entrance, the Ultra Club sits right in the middle of the South Concourse with views of the sun setting over Lookout Mountain and is the newest private event space on the Southside. Join fans after the match and enjoy the newly-remodeled Ultra Club! There will be a cash bar and much more!

It's also the opening weekend at the Chattanooga Market! From 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. check out the region’s largest farmers & artists market before the match.

Match info

Venue: Finley Stadium Stadium | Chattanooga, Tennessee
Kick-off: 7:00 p.m. ET, Saturday April 27
Broadcast: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Talent: Josh Tolle
Audio stream: CFC on Mixlr | Talent: Gabriel Schray

Uniforms for Chattanooga FC vs. Carolina Core FC


Atahan Yaya
Head Referee

Joshua Belk
Assistant Referee 1

Rebecca Luther
Assistant Referee 2

Donovan Eubank
4th Official