The first official instalment of the Canadian Premier League Al (Alberta) Classico has gone to Calgary, but it did not come easy.
Cavalry FC kept their perfect record through their first four league games, holding off FC Edmonton 1-0 at Spruce Meadows on Saturday, and in the process, opening a five-point lead in the Spring Season standings over second place Forge FC of Hamilton. FC Edmonton dropped to fifth place with four points from their first three games.
“It’s was just another tough first half for us,” said FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus. “For whatever reason, we seemed content to just want to defend in the first half. We were just giving them the ball back and the goal they scored in injury time in the first half was just because we didn’t clear a ball. We had the ball comfortably on the sideline all we had to do was playing down the win and we probably see the half out and we make our corrections at half time, and we didn’t do that.”
Cavalry striker Jordan Brown scored the lone goal, 30 seconds from the end of the first half, getting a foot on a shot from Elijah Adekugbe and deflecting it past FC Edmonton goalkeeper Connor James. It was the first goal FC Edmonton have conceded in open play in three games this season. The only other goal FC Edmonton conceded was on a penalty kick in a 2-1 in Winnipeg against Valour FC.
“We tried to play the ball out at the wrong time, which is amazing because we hadn’t tried to play it out for most of the game,” Paulus said. “So that cost us. But full credit to the players, because in the second half, we came out a different side. We were brave, we came out to play, we attacked them and we kept the tempo high.”
FC Edmonton took a more positive approach in the second half and were unlucky not to score in the 70th minute as substitute Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, 17, forced Cavalry goalkeeper Marco Carducci to make a great diving save to his right on a shot from outside the penalty area.
Velado-Tsegaye, a product of the FC Edmonton Academy, was making his professional debut and had just come on the field two minutes earlier.
In the 75th minute, Velado-Tsegaye forced Carducci to make another outstanding diving save, this time to his left, on a volley from the top of the box.
“Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, he made a massive influence in the game,” Paulus said. “He had two great shots and Marco Carducci had two fantastic saves on him.”
FC Edmonton had Calvary on their heels for the last 20 minutes of the game, but were unable to get a final touch to tie it.
They were once again dangerous from set pieces and finished with seven shots to Cavalry’s three. FC Edmonton had 49 per cent of the possession under difficult conditions on a wet day in Calgary and earned four corner kicks in the game.
“They’re a tough team to break down, but we created probably more good chance (Saturday) in the second half, than we’ve probably given up all year,” Paulus said. “It’s unfortunate, I felt a draw would have actually been a fair result.”
FC Edmonton have a win, a draw, and a loss to show from their first three games of the season. Last week, they were able to earn a point in their home opener with a scoreless tie against Pacific FC, despite playing a man short for an hour after midfielder Philippe Lincourt-Joseph was sent off for a dangerous tackle.
“Of course you want a better start, but if you look at the table, outside of Calgary, the rest are all pretty even,” Paulus said. “I thought we were unfortunate to not get a (favourable) result in our home game and that would have put us on six points and then we could have really battled for it.
“This league is so tight and if Calgary drops a couple down the stretch and we can keep winning ours, you never know what can happen here. If we play a lot of our games like we played that second half, then we feel we’ll challenge for the top of the table. We just need to see that for 90 minutes, not 45.”
FC Edmonton will travel to Hamilton to face Forge FC on Wednesday, May 29, before returning to host Valour FC on Saturday at Clarke Field on June 1.
“We’ve got 10 days to get it right attacking-wise,” Paulus said. “We have 10 days to get the team sorted out for Forge, who I think are a very, very good side and go there to play. No excuses, we just have to put together 90 minutes.”
Email: [email protected]
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest