Top News

First place at stake for FC Edmonton against Cavalry FC

FC Edmonton's Tomi Ameobi (18) scores on HFX Wanderers FC's goalkeeper Christian Oxner (50) on a penalty kick during the second half of a Canadian Premier League soccer game at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
FC Edmonton's Tomi Ameobi (18) scores on HFX Wanderers FC's goalkeeper Christian Oxner (50) on a penalty kick during the second half of a Canadian Premier League soccer game at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
EDMONTON, Alta. —

FC Edmonton are heading down the highway to face their biggest rivals in the quest for the top spot in the Canadian Premier League Fall Competition standings.

It seems fitting Cavalry FC of Calgary stand in the way of FC Edmonton and the top spot in the second half of the split-season format. The two teams square off Friday (7 p.m.) at Spruce Meadows.

A first-place finish in the second half of the season would have FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC squaring off in the inaugural CPL final. Cavalry won the 10-game Spring Competition and are tied with Edmonton in points so far in the Fall Competition with a game in hand.

“This is a test for our team; this can be a statement game for our club going down to Calgary,” said FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus. “For us, the key is to make sure we don’t make mistakes. Calgary just doesn’t make mistakes in their half, their defenders are mature, they’ll play what’s given to them, but they won’t force things.

“We have to be as disciplined as they are, and if we go out and do that, then it’ll be a battle. For us, it’s a test. This is a chance for FC Edmonton to see where we’re at.”

Cavalry have been the class of the inaugural CPL season, having lost just two of its first 15 games. They won the Spring Competition by five points over Forge FC of Hamilton and were 10 ahead of third-place FC Edmonton.

However going down to Calgary, FC Edmonton will be the fresher team, with Cavalry having hosted and lost 1-0 to the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday.

“They have to play us two days after that game, which I think is unfair scheduling,” Paulus said. “You always want any competitive advantage you can get, but when it comes to things like this when a team is being forced to play a second game in two nights, it’s really not fair to the players on that team to have to try and fight to recover in 48 hours.”

FC Edmonton last played on Saturday, defeating Pacific FC 3-1, which vaulted them into a tie for first place. Cavalry, meanwhile, were held to a scoreless tie by HFX Wanderers in Halifax on Saturday, then flew home to host Montreal on Wednesday and will have one day of rest before facing FC Edmonton in the latest instalment of the Al (Alberta) Classico.

“They have a tough one, but what I will say is that (head coach) Tommy (Wheedon Jr.) has rotated his roster from the start of the year,” Paulus said. “So it’s not like we’re going to see eight brand new players that haven’t played much this year; we’re going to see eight new players, but they’ve all played and they’ve all contributed to his success. We’re not going to go down there with the mindset that this is going to be a broken, beaten up team by any stretch.”

For their part, FC Edmonton goes into the game currently playing their best soccer of the season. They earned eight of a possible 12 points on a four-game homestand.

“The team right now is in a really good place,” midfielder Ramon Soria said. “To be able to win a couple games at home has given us a lot of confidence and we like the way things are going for us right now in the Fall Competition. We feel we are playing really well and we are happy with our style of play, everything is very positive. I think this is a good opportunity for us to try and beat Calgary and that’s what we’re going to try to do is earn those three points for the win.”

Beating Cavalry in Calgary won’t be easy, even if they are playing on short rest. The first-year club has attracted tremendous support this season with a packed house of over 5,600 taking in the game against Montreal.

Edmonton lost to Cavalry 1-0 in Calgary in the third game of the season and then fell 3-0 at Clarke Field later in the Spring Competition.

However, FC Edmonton considers themselves a different team now.

“In reality, I think we’re playing better because we’re more confident in what we’re doing,” Soria said. “We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better, which is important and we now know what the strengths of our team are. We’re playing a lot better and smarter than we were in the past and eliminating the errors we were making before.”

FC Edmonton is also scoring, due in large part to the emergence of striker Easton Ongaro, who has four goals in the past three games. Scoring was the last piece of the puzzle for Edmonton, who are now playing with confidence.

“Success brings that, wins will bring that to a team,” Paulus said. “In the games there is belief that we can get a result (win) every game and we don’t fear anybody. We respect our opposition and we know that any given day, any team can grab points from any team. For us we feel that if we continue to do the right things if we limit our mistakes in our half, that we have a chance to win and be successful.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

Recent Stories