YEAR IN REVIEW: Fan demands, familiar faces inspire new-look FC Edmonton bounce back

A Canadian Premier League club with history, FC Edmonton is back.

And it’s building something that’s both forward-thinking and a nod to the club’s past.

Here’s how FC Edmonton bounced back in 2018:

 June 2018

FC Edmonton’s 2018 re-launch event. (CPL)

Supporters began plotting the Eddies’ return to pro soccer, with groups like RallyRabbit and #YEG4CPL gathering support at FC Edmonton Academy matches.

The club’s CPL iteration was confirmed on June 8 during a street party in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona District.

“No supporter group has demanded a club the way Edmonton has,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan said.

FC Edmonton unveiled a new crest during the announcement.

Incorporating the Rally Rabbit, the crest also features nods to the city’s coat of arms, the Fath family and the North Saskatchewan River.

July 2018

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Jeff Paulus. (CPL)

Less than a month into its CPL existence, FC Edmonton put a face to the name.

Paulus had been a fixture at Clarke Stadium for nearly all of the club’s existence. The 48-year-old made the jump to head coach after severing as an assistant for the NASL side from 2011 to 2017.

“I am excited for the opportunity to showcase the incredibly talented coaches and players in our city and provide the best supporters in the CPL with an exciting local team,” Paulus said.

September 2018

FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus during the first leg of the Al Classico at Cavalry FC’s Spruce Meadows. (FC Edmonton)

FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC gave supporters a taste of their future CPL rivalry in September. The two CPL clubs booked a home-and-away tie, dubbed Al Classico by supporters, that would feature two squads of local prospects.

The first match, which took place at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on Sept. 29, finished 2-2. Things would shift to Clarke Stadium on Oct. 20 for the second leg.

October 2018

FC Edmonton celebrate a goal at Clarke Stadium in the second leg of the inaugural Al Classico against Cavalry FC. (FC Edmonton)

The second leg of Al Classico was played at Clarke Stadium on Oct. 20.

With the second leg ending 1-1, and the aggregate score knotted 3-3, the match went to penalties, which Cavalry won 3-2.

On Oct. 25, the CPL’s #GotGame Open Trials shifted west for its only Alberta stop.

FC Edmonton fleshed out its backroom staff in October, naming former Canadian U-17 national team coach Sean Fleming as an assistant coach and academy technical director.

November 2018

FC Edmonton Players
Randy Edwini-Bonsu (L) and Allan Zebie. (CPL)

On Nov. 29, the club announced Edmontonians Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Allan Zebie as its inaugural CPL signings.

Edmonton-born Edwini-Bonsu returns home following an impressive career abroad that included time in Finland and with several clubs in Germany.

Zebie, a long-time FC Edmonton regular, recently returned from a hip injury. The 25-year-old has a total of 54 appearances for the club.

FC Edmonton stayed local during the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft on Nov. 13. All three picks attended the University of Alberta; goalkeeper Connor James (7th overall), forward Ajeej Sarkaria (8th overall) and defender Noah Cunningham (21st overall) suited up for the Golden Bears in 2018.

December 2018

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FC Edmonton signings Son Yong-chan, Bruno Zebie, Ajeej Sarkaria and Ajay Khabra. (Supplied)

FC Edmonton added a quartet of signings in December, highlighted by its first international player, midfielder Son Yongchan. The 27-year-old South Korean impressed Paulus at the #GotGame Open Trials in Toronto.

“He’s going to be a guy that we’ll build the club around,” Paulus said of Yongchan.

The club also added Bruno Zebie, Ajeej Sarkaria and Ajay Khabra. All three are graduates of the FC Edmonton Academy.

Also in December, FC Edmonton supporters got their first glimpse at the new-look Clarke Stadium that will be home to the CPL side.

Clarke Stadium in Edmonton. (CPL)

The increased the stadium’s capacity to 5,100 by adding stands along the goal lines, fully enclosing the pitch for the first time.