As the lone Canadian Premier League team that had a professional history and a standing academy, FC Edmonton had a lot of expectations resting on their shoulders in 2019.
But FCE was a team that suffered through an identity crisis for good portions of the Spring and Fall campaigns. The team made a decent push early in the Fall, but in the end was overwhelmed by its inability to get goals from players not named Easton Ongaro. A total of 27 goals in 28 games was the second-worst offensive output in the league.
We look back on a season that, filled with hope, didn’t end the way that the Eddies would have wanted. Here’s FC Edmonton’s 2019 Year in Review.
When the team began its pre-season, coach Jeff Paulus looked bullish on a system that would in some ways emulate the French national team’s World Cup-winning formula: athletic players who would use their speed to create quick ball movement and attacks.
It didn’t work out that way. FCE endured a six-game winless streak in the Spring season in which the team didn’t score a goal. With a physical group filled with six-foot-plus giants, it felt at times that the Eddies were a side that had square pegs going into round holes.
With a switch to a more straightforward 4-4-2, and the emergence of six-foot-six-inch rookie Easton Ongaro as a scoring option, the Eddies started off the Fall season strong, and looked to be the threat to the Cavalry and Forge that many had predicted them to be. But, a 10-game winless streak, which once again saw the team struggle with playing against more free-flowing formations, was a killer.
When you take games against Cavalry and Valour out of the mix, FCE’s record was decent. Against the other four CPL teams — including the champion Forge side — the Eddies went 7-5-6 over the Spring and Fall campaigns.
Problem is, you have to include those games against Cavalry and Valour, too. The Eddies didn’t beat their Alberta rivals all season long, and it took until the dying minutes of their final meeting of the season for FCE to even score a goal against Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s men. But, maybe even more baffling was the Eddies’ lack of success against Valour. After winning in Winnipeg to open their Spring season, FCE didn’t beat Valour again. That’s a cumulative 1-7-2 record against those two sides.
For the conspiracy theorists: FC Edmonton was awarded just one penalty kick all season long, by far the lowest total in the league. Tomi Ameobi had the Eddies’ only penalty conversion.
After getting a bye, the Eddies were knocked out in the second round of the Canadian Championship, 3-2 on aggregate, by York9 FC. The Eddies surrendered three goals on corner kicks in the first leg, then made a valiant effort to get back into the tie. And what looked to be a late goal in the first leg was controversially ruled out for a foul, adding to Edmonton’s lore of Canadian Championship weird bounces and late-game controversies that have haunted this club since it launched nearly a decade ago
The Eddies’ fall slide coincided with the loss of Jeannot Esua to suspension and injury. Maybe the most underrated fullback in the CPL, he was his teammates’ choice for player of the year at the end of the season.
Centre back Amer Didic struggled with a bad hamstring in the spring season, but the former USL All-Star did well enough in his Edmonton homecoming to earn two separate call-ups to the Canadian national team.
There were lots of questions about the Eddies’ goalkeeping going into the season, as the team went in without a stopper with years of professional experience. But Connor James, the fans’ choice for the spring season player of the year, answered the doubters, and finished second in the CPL with 68 saves, despite being rested for much of the final month of the season.
And then there’s Ongaro. Ask FCE fans about who they thought was the biggest snub at the CPL Awards, and the fact Ongaro wasn’t considered for the Under-21 award will go top of the list. With 10 goals in just 1,185 minutes of play, his strike rate was the best among the top forwards in the league.
FC Edmonton’s Top 5 goals from 2019
End-of-season stat sheet
FC Edmonton put up some decent numbers in individual categories, but couldn’t overcome some of their hurdles. Here’s how their 2019 looked, by the numbers:
Record (W-D-L): 8-8-12 (CPL), 9-8-13 (all comps.)
Goals scored: 27 (CPL), 29 (all comps.)
Goals against: 33 (CPL), 36 (all comps.)
Goal Difference: -6 (CPL), -7 (all comps.)
Top scorer: Easton Ongaro (10)
Assist leader: Amer Didic (3)
Home wins: 7 of 15 (all comps.)
“We’re going to be fast. This is the most athletic team FCE has ever seen. And it is going to mirror the French in that respect; 100 percent it will,” – a bullish Jeff Paulus in pre-season.
“I know some people will look at 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,” – Paulus as FC Edmonton’s Spring season skid extended to six games without a goal.
“Definitely, next season, I think I’ve got to set my sights on the scoring title,” – FCE leading scorer Easton Ongaro, who led the league in goals-to-minutes-played ratio and would later sign a new contract to keep him in his hometown for two more years.