‘It’s unfortunate’: Paulus laments Eddies loss amid tactical shift

EDMONTON – FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus made major changes to his lineup ahead of Saturday’s home date with York9 FC.

The experiment didn’t go well, as York9 got off to a three-goal lead before halftime, and despite an Eddies’ surge in the second, the Nine Stripes came out with a 3-1 triumph.

With no goals in the team’s previous three matches, Paulus made wholesale changes to his attack. Easton Ongaro and Tomi Ameobi started the game on the bench, while Oumar Diouck and his six goals were absent due to suspension. So, a trio of local players, Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, Ajeej Sarkaria and David Doe, led FCE’s three-pronged 4-3-3 attack.

But, as Paulus pointed out after the match, it doesn’t matter what the Eddies do tactically if the players make the kind of individual errors that lead to three goals against. Basically, it’s hard to build the house when the foundation has cracks. So, before we get into a discussion about what FCE does with the Xs and Os, we have to have a more basic conversation about the individual errors that continue to hurt this team

“It’s unfortunate,” said Paulus. “We want to be that team going forward, and I think we’ve got the players to do it.

“It’s individual errors, and that’s the difference between us at the moment and say, a Cavalry. Their players just don’t make those mistakes.”

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The Eddies began the game brightly, holding the ball for the majority of the first five minutes. But it was all undone on a set piece seven and a half minutes into the game. FCE keeper Connor James charged off his line to get to Ryan Telfer’s free kick lofted into the penalty area, but he didn’t get there in time — allowing Luca Gasparotto to head the ball into a recently vacated goal. It was Gasparotto’s first CPL marker.

“He’s been so solid all year,” Paulus said of his ‘keeper. “He’s one of the best ‘keepers in the league. But, at the end of the day, it’s a ball you can’t come for. It’s 12 yards from goal, you’ve got a massive back line. Even if their player does win it, it’s 12 yards away.”

“You score in the eighth minute, and you keep pushing forward after that,” said York9 head coach Jimmy Brennan. “It gave us a bit of confidence, it was a good finish by Luca.”

York9 celebrates a goal against FC Edmonton. (CPL)
York9 celebrates a goal against FC Edmonton. (CPL)

Edmonton was undone again in the 20th. Diyaeddine Abzi sprinted down the left wing, and then danced around Doe, who had tracked back. James came out to block Abzi’s low cross, didn’t get it, and the ball ricocheted off Rodrigo Gattas into the Eddies goal. It’s hard to tell how much Gattas really knew about the goal, but any York9 will supporter will tell you that they’re all beautiful when they cross the opposition goal line.

The mistakes were numerous. As Paulus pointed out, not only has Doe allowed Abzi to get by, but Doe shouldn’t have been the one forced to have to come back and make that challenge. That was right back Kareem Moses’s assignment. And then, the ball gets through, and James misses it on his diving attempt to block it.

“We have Doe, a winger, defending against Abzi, who is one of the best 1-v-1 players in our league,” lamented Paulus. “And our right back is nowhere to be seen giving cover.”

Telfer made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark after York9 pounced on a giveaway from Velado-Tsegaye in the Edmonton half.

Paulus brought in Ongaro and Ameobi to start the second half, and then Son Yongchan at the hour mark.

The Eddies responded with a goal in the 63rd; Ongaro deflected Edem Mortotsi’s shot past York9 keeper Nathan Ingham for his seventh goal of the CPL campaign.

Four minutes later, York9 defender Morey Doner robbed Ongaro of his brace, blocking a shot off the goal line.

“I felt as soon as I got on, we started creating chances,” said Ongaro. “We got a bit more offence, it seemed we were a little bit more confident in possession. The goal came and then, the chance right after that, it was just unfortunate Doner was there… Credit to him, it was a great play.”

The Eddies were in the midst of a furious attempt to get back in the game, attempting 12 shots on the York9 goal in the second half, compared to just three in the first half. But the hole that they dug was simply too deep.

As the game drew to a close, there were a few shoving matches between the teams.

“I think that’s just the game of football in general,” said Brennan. “Things happen on the pitch. It’s not a sport where we’re loaded with pads. It’s big guys that are out there, and they’re making tackles hard and they’re challenging for every ball and sometimes it gets a little bit heated.”