The Dalton Red Wolves have five games remaining in their inaugural season in the United Soccer League League Two, and between their wins and losses, coach Drew Courtney said there is much to reflect on.
After dropping their third straight match Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss to SC United Bantams, the past two have come within the final minutes. On Sunday the team gave up a late goal, falling to South Georgia Tormenta FC 2, 3-2.
"It was pretty tough for us," Courtney said. "We outshot them, 13-2 (on Tuesday) and ended up giving up the goal with about four minutes to go. The players are certainty disappointed, but there is no one to blame but ourselves. Things like a late-goal chance can change the outcome of a game.
"It's one thing to look at it and say that we are not good enough this year, because we are playing better and better every game. We haven't done a good enough job in the final third, and we have to be able to put away opportunities when when we create them."
The Red Wolves, who are serving as a direct affiliate to their USL League One counterpart in Chattanooga, now have a record of 4-4-1. They play next when they travel to the MOBA Soccer Complex in Peachtree City to take on Peachtree City MOBA at 7:30 p.m. on Monday. This will be the third and final meeting between the teams who have split their first two matches.
With such a short season making the playoffs would be very hard for Dalton to do, likely needing to win each game left of its schedule and also hoping some teams near the top of their division gain a few losses, as well. The top team in each division in the USL League Two earns a ticket to the postseason, while the second place team from each one of the three conferences also earn a spot.
Despite the circumstances, Courtney said the motto for the remainder of the season hasn't changed any since the first day of practice.
"It is challenging for us, but the guys are still focused on getting better," he said. "The ultimate goal is to be quality members of the community and that doesn't change from yesterday to today. We are also always focused on trying to get them to sign professional contracts.
"We knew we played really well in the last few games, but unfortunately the record doesn't show that."
Courtney, who comes from leading the men's soccer program at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, for the past five years, admits this experience is something that has continued to open his eyes. Courtney had coached a USL League Two team in Mississippi previously for two years. He left Bryan this past January and will continue to coach the Red Wolves for at least the next year.
"When I signed a contract, it wasn't just a one-year thing," he said. "I didn't become the coach until February, and putting together a team just a few months before the season started was just part of it. I think we did a good job of creating a quality team, but there will definitely be more time to focus on logistics in year two.
"Now that the buzz had started to circulate in Dalton about a new team, we hope to put some roots in. We just want to be in the community."
Along with coaching the players, Courtney said he and the Red Wolves staff has been mindful of how they have handled the past few games, doing their best to learn from their rights and wrongs. He said the only thing to do is move forward.
"There's a lot of season left to play and we feel like we have a good chance to make the most of it," he said. "We can just try to control what we can control."
In their five remaining games, the Dalton Red Wolves have two home games on Wednesday and Tuesday, July 9, at the Christian Heritage School football field.