Geo Alves scored the Cosmos’ lone goal. (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Cosmos’ return bus trip from this eastern Tennessee city was going to be long enough.

After Saturday night’s discouraging 2-1 loss to Chattanooga FC, it probably got even longer.

The Cosmos will have plenty of time to thing about what went wrong in their 2-1 loss here. They failed to hold a one-goal lead, surrendering two goals in the final 14 minutes en route to a 2-1 loss before a crowd of 918 at Finley Stadium Saturday night.

New York’s Achilles Heel has been its inability to hold late leads, whether it was in the preseason NISA Independent Cup or in the regulation season.

It was never more apparent Saturday night as the Cosmos paid for it dearly as their hopes of finishing atop the Eastern Conference went up in smoke.

In fact, Chattanooga FC (2-1-0, 6 points) moved past the Cosmos (1-1-2, 5) into second place in the division behind first-place Michigan Stars FC (2-0-2, 8).

The game did not get off to a good start for either team as the kickoff was delayed for an hour due to heavy rain and lightning.

When it did start, the Cosmos acquitted themselves well in the opening half, holding Chattanooga at bay even though the hosts attempted five corner kicks to their none.

They also found the net on Geo Alves’ first goal of the season in the 37th minute. Chattanooga FC goalkeeper Alec Redington spilled Charlie Ledula’s right-wing cross that an alert Alves knocked into the net from close range at the far post.

The hosts, however, knotted things up in the 76th minute, after Darwin Lom was fouled in the penalty area. Lom took the penalty kick that keeper Jesse Corke saved. One of the assistant referees, however, ruled that Corke had moved before the kick and had Lom retake the attempt. On his second try, the Chattanooga midfielder fired a shot into the right corner as Corke dove the other way.

Second-half substitute Clayton Adams scored the tie-breaking goal in the 83rd minute, rifling in a shot from distance into the top left corner to give Chattanooga a 2-1 margin.

Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes decided to rest several regulars from the Starting XI, who played in the 0-0 home scoreless tie with Detroit City FC Wednesday night. That included team captain and midfielder Danny Szetela, forward Bledi Bardic and center back Matt Lewis. Midfielder Ansi Agolli did not dress for the match.

Lewis was forced into action in the 10th minute when Andrew Lubahn suffered an injury. Bardic came on in the second half.

The Cosmos will have an opportunity to redeem themselves as they will participate the NISA Fall Tournament in Detroit, Mich., which will run from Sept. 21-Oct. 2.