‘Give them credit’: Paulus highlights close chances in Pacific draw

After FC Edmonton and Pacific FC played to the first 0-0 draw in Canadian Premier League history, Eddies’ coach Jeff Paulus heaped praise on the players in the opposition backline.

Why? Because even though the Eddies spent more than an hour down a man because of a straight red card issued to midfielder Philippe Lincourt-Joseph, the home side was still able to launch a series of long throws from Son Yong-chan and five corners into the Pacific penalty area.

The Eddies lineup is filled with players well over six feet tall, and Pacific were without striker Marcus Haber and Hendrik Starostzik, their six-foot-plus pillars in attack and in the centre of the defence.

But, Pacific survived the aerial assault. And a lot of that had to do with the work of centre back Lukas MacNaughton, who was a massive presence in Pacific’s penalty area.

“(Set pieces) are obviously going to be a real weapon of ours,” Paulus said. “But credit to Pacific. They’re missing Haber who’s six-foot-four, they are missing the defender (Starostzik) who is six-foot-two and a dominant player in the air. So we thought we had a chance today, because there weren’t a lot of big bodies out there against us. We wanted to create set pieces for ourselves, we wanted to get balls into the box — and we’ve done that. But, tell you what, Lukas MacNaughton and the other lad beside him (Ryan McCurdy), what a job they’ve done. They’ve battled. They’ve kept a clean sheet against our giants.”

For MacNaughton to be singled out by Paulus, that’s bittersweet. He trialed with FC Edmonton and didn’t stick before getting the chance to play for Pacific FC.

Despite being down a man since the 29th minute, the Eddies only surrendered a single shot on target. And, even though Pacific had more than 60 per cent of the ball, it was the Eddies who looked to be the more dangerous of the two teams as the game went on.

“You could see we had the chances,” said FCE fullback Kareem Moses. “We looked like we had 11 players, and we kept that going.”

Pacific FC and FC Edmonton players battle in the box during their 0-0 draw at Clarke Stadium on May 12, 2019 (CPL)

For Pacific FC, the draw means the team has four points from four games. That puts Pacific five points behind Cavalry, who has played one less game. Pacific has just six games left in the spring season, so challenging for a league title may now be a bridge too far.

Sure, the team improved after being shellacked 3-0 by Forge FC midweek, but it wasn’t able to make its man advantage stick.

“I think we’re pretty disappointed as a group that we didn’t get the three points, but after Wednesday night, for sure, it was a much better performance,” midfielder Ben Fisk, a former Eddie, told OneSoccer. “One thing we wanted to be was hard to beat on the road, so, obviously, getting a clean sheet, we’re proud of that.”

Referee Dave Gantar showed Lincourt-Joseph a straight red after he went to ground and collided with McCurdy. Both players had begun to slide towards a loose ball, but, the Pacific FC player got to it first, and Joseph came in late.

Paulus said, after reviewing the decision, that the red was justified — as Joseph’s feet went over the ball.

“I would probably be calling for it if it was against my team,” said Paulus. “So, I’ll accept it.”