‘We will keep believing’: Paulus backs Eddies after improved showing vs. Y9

EDMONTON – FC Edmonton didn’t create nearly the same quantity of scoring chances on Wednesday as they did this past weekend in a loss to Cavalry FC. But, the Eddies did have three golden chances to break their Canadian Premier League scoreless drought in York9’s backyard — and couldn’t convert any of them.

A 0-0 draw was the result. And the obvious storyline is that the Eddies still haven’t scored a goal in league play since their opening game at Valour FC. It’s now six games without a goal. But, it’s not like the Eddies haven’t created chances. The problem is finishing. Pure and simple.

In the first half, Oumar Diouck stripped York9’s Luca Gasparotto of the ball. He sent the ball to fellow striker Tomi Ameobi in the box, and the resulting attempt went over the bar.

In the second half, Ameobi dropped off the ball to Diouck, whose left-footed effort soared past charging York9 ‘keeper Nathan Ingham, but didn’t curl enough to end up on the right side of the far post.

And, late in the game, Ingham was forced to make a good save on a shot from Eddies’ sub Randy Edwini-Bonsu. The rebound popped up to Ameobi, who headed home but didn’t celebrate. He didn’t need to see the linesman’s flag to know that he was offside.

“It’s these sort of chances that we’re converting in training,” FCE coach Jeff Paulus told after the match. “We like to train the way that we play. The lads enjoy that. And we’re scoring goals.”

But he admitted that once his team gets into a stadium — and let’s face it, every one of these players knows about the team’s scoring drought — the “tightness” and “anxiousness” set in, and the 20-yard curlers that nestle into the top corner in training turn into shots that go well wide in a game situation.

You go back to last Saturday and wonder — had the Eddies converted one or two of their 13 first-half attempts on goal against Cavalry, does that game go differently? Does the Calgary side roar back to score three times in the second half?

And, let’s move to Wednesday’s game. The Eddies played a decent road match, limiting York9 to just five attempts that forced keeper Connor James into action. And, unlike that fateful Canadian Championship match from a couple of weeks ago — when the Eddies surrendered three goals on corner kicks at York Lions Stadium — the road side survived five corner attempts this time around.

Now, to be fair, a headed attempt from Manny Aparicio forced FCE’s Bruno Zebio into a goal-line clearance. But credit the Eddies for having a man on the back post to act as a last line of defence. It paid off.

Paulus said he thought the draw was a fair result, but affirmed that “this was as close to a full 90 minutes that the team has put in this year.”

The Eddies have already been eliminated from spring season contention. The CONCACAF League spot went to Forge FC. So, what’s left to play for in the three remaining spring games? Does Paulus see it as a situation where his team needs to get as many points as possible, or is it truly a pre-season for the fall campaign?

“It’s a bit of both. This is the time where the team needs to find confidence,” Paulus said. “Look, you can only tell yourselves so many times that the goals will come. And, I know some people will look where we’re at right now and not believe what I say, but we in the staff believe in our players. We will keep believing in what we have here. And we’re going to keep working to fix it.”