Forward Madison FC kicked off a new era in Madison sports Saturday, taking the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee against the Red Wolves in their first-ever USL League One match.
Despite holding the 67 percent of possession and creating many more opportunities — 11 shots to Chattanooga’s 6 — the Flamingos couldn’t find a finish, and a brief lapse in an otherwise-stalwart defense left Chattanooga striker Eamon Zayed alone about 15 yards from goal and he was able to curl a half-volley past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair in the 67th minute.
“Overall I thought the effort of our group was very good, I don’t think we came out and played too nervous for it being our first game,” Shore said in a statement after the game. “They were tough to break down, and it’s their home opener. So for us we’re obviously disappointed with the result, but I don’t think we’re too disappointed with the way we played.”
Shore had to contend with his first challenge before the opening whistle, as left back Christian Diaz’s international player clearance failed to come through in time for kickoff. Shore was forced to shuffle his deck, moving midfielder Don Smart back into the defense.
“Our hands were tied because Christian’s ITC (International Transfer Certificate) didn’t come in, so we waited to the last minute with that,” Shore said. “We felt the best chance was to move Don back to right back because he’s comfortable playing there, [and] Carter [Manley]’s comfortable playing on the left.”
FMFC came out strong from the opening whistle. Chattanooga goalkeeper Alex Mengels had to leap to catch striker Mason Toye’s attempted chip shot in the 10th minute, then shortly thereafter midfielder Josiel Núñez came close with a free kick from 20 yards that sailed just over the bar.
Meanwhile St. Clair was rarely tested, as Zayed’s goal was Chattanooga’s only shot on target.
“[We] came out in the second half, had a good start, and just one chance for Zayed, that’s what he’s so good at, give him one chance and he can hurt you,” Shore said. “Tonight he did.”
With its inaugural game now under its belt, Forward Madison will travel down to Frisco, Tex. next Saturday in search of the team’s first-ever goal and points when they take on North Texas FC. Forward Madison’s back line will be tested by week one USL Player of the Week Ricardo Pepi, a 16-year-old striker who scored a hat trick in North Texas’s opening week win against Chattanooga.
The Flamingos will then return to Madison to open up a newly-renovated Breese Stevens Field for an exhibition match against the UW-Madison men’s soccer team on April 16.