Preseason: Cavalry top undermanned FCE as Son Yongchan sees red

EDMONTON — It’s an awkward moment, for sure — when a player gets sent off in a preseason friendly.

But, when FC Edmonton’s Son Yongchan got his second yellow card in the second half of Saturday’s friendly in Calgary between Cavalry FC and the Eddies, the coaches and referee allowed cooler heads to prevail.

After all, the aim was to get players minutes. So, with that in mind, Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. allowed for Edmonton to simply replace the Korean midfielder, and not have to go down to 10 men.

“We both wanted to play a full game against a full side,” said FCE coach Jeff Paulus. “So, Tommy, as always, was a complete gentleman and we were allowed to continue with a full side.”

Cavalry came out with a 2-0 win, thanks to an early goal from Nico Pasquotti and a late penalty from Dominique Malinga. Paulus lamented a poor first 15 minutes, but said his team grew as the game went on.

“That first 15 minutes was a bit of a struggle for us,” said Paulus. “We were panicked. We struggled to keep the ball. We saw things out of our side that we don’t see in training.”

Even though the Eddies are early in preseason, Paulus said his team looked like it had some real first-match nerves, and it took a bit of time for these things to work out. He said that Wheeldon Jr. had Cavalry pressing high, and that his players “didn’t pick up on it fast enough.”

Paulus has made no secret of the high-tempo game he wants the Eddies to play, and Cavalry pressed high to try and disturb any sort of passing rhythm that Edmonton could have established.

The Eddies did create a couple of golden chances later in the game, both from teenagers. David Doe, who found out a half hour before the game that he would be starting, had a shot go off the post. Prince Amanda had a clear break but put his shot off target, and Paulus credited Cavalry keeper Marco Carducci for coming well out of his goal and pressuring the Eddies’ forward.

The Eddies finished the game with eight players on the field under the age of 19, as the team is already dealing with injuries and absences. Unavailable for the Cavalry game were Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, who has a broken bone in his hand after being struck by a ball; midfielder Randy Edwini-Bonsu was held out after a ball hit him in the eye in training; Cameroonian fullback Jeannot Esua was held out due to a minor ailment; central defender Mele Temguia is still out with a knee problem; and midfield general James Marcelin doesn’t arrive in camp until March 2. Paulus was so stretched in terms of lineup decisions that midfielder/fullback Allan Zebie was pressed into service in the centre of defence.

As for the red card, Paulus said that Son will need to learn that the North American game — at least in his coach’s opinion — is called much more strictly than games are in South Korea and other Asian leagues. He said that the Korean brand of soccer is very physical, and that players don’t think twice about using their bodies to separate their opponents from the ball.

“He’s not a dirty player,” said Paulus. “But he is very aggressive.”