EDMONTON – If this feels like it’s going to be yet another story that centres on the exploits of Easton Ongaro, well, it is.
And that’s because there isn’t a hotter forward in the Canadian Premier League at the moment. Ongaro’s cushioned header set up Oumar Diouck’s opener, then he was Johnny-on-the-spot to smash home two second-half goals, leading FCE to a 3-1 win over Pacific FC at Clarke Field.
Ongaro has now scored four times over the last three games for the Eddies — and he’s the big reason why FCE has moved level on points at the top of the Fall season standings with Cavalry FC. Cavalry has a game in hand, but the two teams meet on Friday.
“It’s exciting, I’m just happy to be able to contribute,” said Ongaro. “Each game I play is an opportunity to show who I am as a player. And, as long as we keep winning, I’m happy.”
With Forge idle, and both Cavalry and York9 dropping points Saturday, Edmonton has moved from fourth into a tie for first. It’s not too much to say that Ongaro’s move into the starting lineup has not only changed FC Edmonton, but it has changed the Canadian Premier League title race.
Pacific started with a back three of Blake Smith, Zach Verhoven and Matthew Baldisimo none of whom close to six feet. With Ongaro, at six-foot-six, and Tomi Ameobi, at six-foot-four, leading the attack, it looked to be a mismatch from the start.
“Going in, we definitely knew we had a major advantage,” said Ongaro. “It worked. We had tons of chances, tons of balls crossed in, great deliveries. We should have had more.”
In fact, Ongaro had an open header stopped by Pacific keeper Nolan Wirth, and had another chance in the box when the ball got stuck in his feet. In the first half, the Eddies had three breaks past the Pacific back line — Ameobi twice and Diouck once — and in none of those instances did they get a shot on goal.
The Eddies outshot Pacific 20-6.
But it wasn’t a perfect afternoon for the home side by any means. Just a minute after the Diouck opener, former Eddie Ben Fisk tied it for Pacific, putting a rebound off a Noah Verhoeven free kick into the roof of the net.
“It’s special, I have a lot of friends and family here in Edmonton, I loved my time here,” said Fisk.
Fisk played 44 NASL games for the Eddies.
Pacific felt good going into the half at 1-1, but Ongaro scored just seconds into the second half, latching on to a rebound off a Mele Temguia shot — after a long throw from Jeannot Esua had caused havoc in the Pacific penalty area.
“If you look at our record this year, it’s a pretty re-occurring theme for us, letting in a goal after a restart,” said Fisk. “Whether it’s after someone scoring or the start of the game or the start of the second half. I’m running out of words to say about what we necessarily need to do, but it’s obviously something we’re working on.
Ongaro’s second goal came after he beat Smith to a near-post corner kick.
As well, new FCE signing Tony Tchani made his CPL debut, coming on as a late second-half sub.
FCE coach Jeff Paulus is pleased with the points, but said it’s too early to focus on the out-of-town scoreboard — at least in terms of the fall championship race. The overall points race, well, that”s another story.
“Obviously, I know the scores coming in, but I don’t try to emphasize that to the player at all,” he said. “Our goal is to finish top two in overall points. I know it’s a split season, I know how you get to a championship final in this league, but we want to be top two in overall points. And this gets us to within four of Forge, and this will be our goal to the end. That’s the ambition of the club, we want to be up there, why not?”