Destination Soccer Chattanooga: Part 2 - Red Wolves
Chattanooga FC is headed into their eleventh season of action. I have spent most of my life about thirty minutes from Chattanooga and CFC was the team to get me into grassroots soccer. I got the chance a few months back to talk to some of the most influential people in Chattanooga’s vast soccer ecosystem. These are the stories of what I consider one of if not the best soccer city in the United States.
Oh, boy. This has been quite the story since everything started up. On August 1st, 2018, it was announced that the USL had granted Chattanooga a team for the newly created USL League One. Not longer afterwards, former Chattanooga FC General Manager Sean McDaniel was announced as the new general manager for the Red Wolves.
“I think Chattanooga is ready for pro soccer,” says McDaniel, “I don’t think it’s something Chattanooga would have been capable for ten year ago. I think year-round soccer is something the area is ready for and I’m glad the opportunity arose.”
However, there has been a lot of backlash on social media to the announcement of the team. The team has been backed by Bob Martino, a real estate developer from Utah, which most Chattahooligans are not a fan of. They are viewed as a team that is coming in to simply try to take over a market that has already seen great grassroots success and trying to pour money in to win over the market. “Alexi Lalas says ‘Let the market decide,” says CFC’s Tim Kelly, “But that only works if someone doesn’t have their thumb on the scale.” Kelly went on to say “I hope they fail, but if they don’t, we’ll do our best to put a better product on the field.”
Chattanooga FC also claims that the Red Wolves made them better “That rivalry makes Chattanooga more of a soccer city overall,” Kelly said, “I learned a long time ago to not worry about things we can’t control. We’re gonna fight as hard as we can for the club and we’re 100% sure that we’re wearing the white hats.” “This new thing hones our focus,” says CFC’s Sheldon Grizzle, “It won’t distract us.”
Although there has been a ton of backlash throughout lower league Twitter, the casual fans in Chattanooga have been getting behind the new team already. “We’re surprised by the support… in a good way!” McDaniel also says that he doesn’t let the negativity get to them. “Anytime I lose focus on the Red Wolves, it’s a distraction to what we are trying to do here,” says McDaniel, “My focus here is on the Red Wolves and it’s on building a professional organization. We’re building a stadium. There’s plenty more to be concerned about. That’s really where our whole focus is.”
The team isn’t short on resources either as owner Bob Martino has helped throw resources in and bring players from around the globe to Chattanooga. The club has players from England, Jamaica, Argentina, Albania, Brazil, Ireland, Spain, Libya, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Canada, and, of course, the United States.
“I’m so proud to say the team we’ve built internally in the office and our coaching staff is spectacular,” says McDaniel, “We couldn’t have found the right teammates without them, and that’s a credit to Bob Martino. His vision and his desire to make this spectacular would never have happened if he didn’t have the investment and the desire to do so.”
The team is building a stadium, like McDaniel mentioned, but for this first season, they are playing at Chattanooga Christian School’s field. They’ve laid out plans that look absolutely phenomenal. Locker rooms for the men’s, women’s, and academy teams, therapy rooms, weight rooms, film study, and a media room are all in the plans for their new soccer facility.
The club currently has two USL League Two teams, as well. The Park City Red Wolves play in Martino’s home of Park City, Utah. Their other League Two squad is much closer to home, playing in my hometown of Dalton, GA. The Dalton Red Wolves play in one of the best areas for high school soccer in the whole nation and have a few players actually from the area.
So far, in the inaugural season for the Red Wolves, they sit relatively low on the League One table, but there’s still time to turn the season around, as the season runs until the beginning of October. A big key will be winning on the road. At the point of writing this, the team has not won a game on the the road (editor’s note: Red Wolves won on the road against Richmond on 6/15). They lost four and drew once in their five matches away from home. There is always room to grow, however, and seeing the team gel could help them get something going.
- Aarik Long