‘No better feeling’: Edmonton’s Velado-Tsegaye celebrates birthday game-winner

Sometimes, the soccer gods hand your story angle to you on a silver platter, carried to you by angels.

Marcus Velado-Tsegaye celebrated his 18th birthday on Canada Day. That’s right, he’s a July 1 baby. So, what better time for the teenager to score his first Canadian Premier League goal?

That’s right. Canada Day birthday, Canada Day goal. Thank you, soccer gods.

Velado-Tsegaye’s Canada Day birthday present was the winner as FC Edmonton beat HFX Wanderers 2-0 in rainy, cool conditions at Clarke Stadium. Game time temperatures hovered around the 8 degree Celsius mark. But the supporters kept themselves warm by signing “Happy Birthday” to the scorer of the first goal.

“There’s no better feeling,” said Velado-Tsegaye. “Ever since I saw on the schedule that we had a game July 1, that came in my head, scoring on my birthday. What a moment it would be. It’s just a dream coming true.”

And, when he heard the supporters singing to him?

“I wanted to run over and say thank you to all them,” Velado-Tsegaye said. “But I had to stay focused on the game. It was good.”

FCE coach Jeff Paulus said he wasn’t aware that it was his young charge’s birthday when the game began.

“This morning, I wasn’t thinking about it, to be honest,” Paulus said. “I was so focused on this (the game). But then I heard the birthday chant, and it was a nicer song than I’m used to hearing about myself on this pitch at this moment!

“He’s a great young player and you saw that today. He’s rewarded our belief in him with a solid performance. And what will get overlooked because he’s scored a goal is how well he’s done defensively — how well he’s shut down (HFX FB Alex) De Carolis all game long.”

Oumar Diouck scored an insurance marker in the 83rd minute, his fourth goal of the campaign.

With the win, FCE finishes the Canadian Premier League spring season in third place. With their third win in a row, the Eddies may have put themselves in the conversation about who might join Forge and Cavalry as favourites to be near the top of the table for the fall season.

It also marked the first time in league play that FCE has scored while wearing their blue uniforms. FCE’s previous six league goals were all scored in the white kits.

Velado-Tsegaye smashed the ball under the bar, taking advantage of a rebound that was left in his path by Wanderers keeper Jan Michael Williams. The keeper dove to stop the initial shot from Bruno Zebie, but didn’t get enough on the ball with his hand. Instead of pushing it away from danger, Williams put the ball in the perfect slot for the FC Edmonton teenager.

“The first one, I thought it was saveable,” said Wanderers coach Stephen Hart. “It’s greasy conditions, and these things happen. But really, through the first half, neither team threatened the net — but they got that opportunity and they scored.”

HFX Wanderers, according to Opta, didn’t register a shot on goal in the game, though Mohamed Kourouma thundered a shot off the underside of the bar in the second half, and Kodai Iida’s attempt on the rebound was blocked by FCE fullback Allan Zebie.