Jeff Paulus: FC Edmonton honoured deceased ex-captain Kooy with comeback draw

It took them a while, but FC Edmonton has finally flipped their script, as a dramatic two-goal comeback earned the Eddies their first point of The Island Games on Sunday.

It was an emotional 2-2 draw with Atlético Ottawa, as Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus and his players mourned the death of Chris Kooy, the club’s first captain who was battling advanced cancer.

Kooy’s kit was draped over the coach’s chair again Sunday and unlike their Al Classico loss, the Eddies honoured the club legend with a fighting spirit to the end.

“The second half, especially those young Edmonton-raised players, they honoured him,” Paulus stated.

“Chris played and lived with compassion, honesty, integrity… these are all traits we want our players to have as a basic foundation before putting on our uniform… and we haven’t done that at times. We didn’t start the match that way.”

Paulus showed emotion in OneSoccer’s post-match interview, tearing up as he spoke about Kooy and his side’s comeback.

It went wrong, well, almost from the very beginning for the Eddies. An errant pass from Erik Zetterberg led to Francisco Acuña’s goal 22 seconds after kickoff – a new record for the fastest goal in CPL history. Acuña would strike again in the first half after finding a pocket of space in front of FCE’s defence.

Overall, the Eddies looked disjointed. A new-look forward line of Tomi Ameobi, Easton Ongaro, and Keven Alemán was eventually adjusted and later scrapped. Alemán had success down the middle, specifically on his goal in the 88th minute when he found himself in perfect position to smash home a rebound off a shot by Hanson Boakai.

Finally, it was Ongaro who seized a point for the Eddies on the brink of stoppage time, as he jumped on a loose ball at the goal-line to finish off a desperation run by Antony Caceres to tie things up.

Caceres, Hanson Boakai, and Prince Amanda proved valuable substitutes for Paulus, who saw Ottawa begin to tire in the second half.

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“Our game-plan went straight out the window – mistakes happen, not often as early as 22 seconds,” Paulus stated.

“We figured we’ve had a real nice size advantage since they were without that physical centre back [Milovan Kapor] and we were going up against a younger centre half [Gianfranco Facchineri].

“This was a team that likes to play narrow so we looked to overload one side and look for a switch and resulting one-v-one or one-v-none, and then have Tomi and Easton in the box. We had a chance to get swung in and we just… didn’t do it.

“We saw them tiring out, something they’ve done over the past couple matches, so we brought the dribblers on from the bench – Caceres, Boakai – we wanted to mix it up and beat them with pace.”

Sunday gave the Eddies their first point and first goals of The Island Games. While Edmonton were far from an offensive juggernaut – only creating a handful of chances – striker Easton Ongaro saw plenty of positives from their attack.

“I think we started to find a bit of flow and creativity – it’s something we’ve struggled with so it’s definitely good progress,” Ongaro said. “We knew we needed a result and going down two-nil so early on… that’s a hard thing to come back from.”

FCE will play their fourth of seven first-round matches Wednesday against HFX Wanderers FC (8pm ET,/9pm AT on OneSoccer).

Paulus, rallying around Kooy’s legacy and Sunday’s all-important comeback, is eyeing three wins from the next four.

“You have to use this as a team,” Paulus stated. “We have to enter every minute of every match with that level of intensity.

“This point for us… we hope we can look back and say this one gave us a spot in the final four.”

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