YORK REGION – Another Canadian Championship match, another dramatic, controversial final moment for FC Edmonton.
Having fallen behind 3-0 in the opening hour of the first leg of their series against York9 FC, the Eddies looked to have scored a second vital away goal in stoppage-time when goalkeeper Dylan Powley launched a free-kick into the box and Tomi Ameobi bundled it over the line in an aerial challenge with York keeper Nathan Ingham … only for the referee’s whistle to strike it off.
“The refs have been fantastic, but that’s a goal, the second one,” FCE coach Jeff Paulus vehemently affirmed post-match. “I’ve seen the highlight now – that’s a goal and we go home 3-2.
“That’s heartbreaking, that.”
Forced to settle for a 3-1 defeat in the opening leg, Paulus relayed the explanation he was given for the foul call, which, with the benefit of replay, made the issue quite clear for him.
“I’ve already watched it 17 times and I’ve yet to find a push on all 17,” Paulus said. “I’ll watch it again to see if there is one, but after 17, it’s 17-0, no push.”
Equally as upsetting for Edmonton was that all three York9 goals came from corner kicks – a rare feat in the world of soccer.
“I’m gutted to give up three set-pieces,” Paulus said. “This is our strength as a team and we’ve given up three on missed assignments. We have to be better at that.”
Still, Paulus added: “If we get one, we can go home. Even at 3-1, I’m very confident right now.”
It’s a positive sentiment that defender Kareem Moses echoed after the match, providing insight into the mentality in the dressing room at the half, which spurred something of a comeback for his side: “We’re a family and we fight for each other. Going down 2-0, for us, is nothing, we can get back in the game: All we need is one, and after that, the second one will come.
“We believe in each other. We continue doing that, we live by that. The second half showed the belief we have in the dressing room.”
Paulus called Diouck’s away goal “the difference maker,” setting up a fascinating return leg in Edmonton next Wednesday.
“We’re down two, but it’s a two-game series, so you’ve got a chance to come home,” Paulus said. “Honestly, the talk will be about us losing back home I’m sure, and on the airwaves and the experts at OneSoccer.
“But I’ll tell you: These boys have come out here and they’ve put in a fight in that second half. They were the dominant side in that half and we got the away goal.”
Having been held scoreless in their previous four outings, that goal was sweet relief beyond its ramifications in the series.
“In the past games we’ve had chances, it just wasn’t falling for us at the right moments,” Moses said. “I have faith in all of our attacking players: Tomi, Oumar, Randy (Edwini-Bonsu), the list goes on.
“We needed this monkey off our back, now it’s off our back, we got one in the back of the net. In the second leg, it’s going to be one to watch. We’re going to score a lot of goals coming now.”
With the winner of this series sealing a date against the Montreal Impact, Edmonton are craving something even sweeter than relief: Revenge for another late moment of controversy in 2014, when the Impact were awarded a dubious 97th minute penalty kick that ultimately eliminated the Eddies from the Canadian Championship.
“For us, this competition is very important,” Paulus concluded. “We have a history in this, we go back in this competition; we’ve done well here, beating MLS teams. We’ve had success and we want to get there again.
“We feel a few years back Montreal Impact stole one off of us, on a handball that was never a handball, so we want to get a chance to play them.”