FC Edmonton returned to training this weekend, as they prepare for an important second-leg match in the Canadian Championship against York9 FC. The winner will go on to face Major League Soccer (MLS) side Montreal Impact in a two-leg series.
Edmonton was disappointed to have conceded three goals off corner kicks, which is usually an area that Edmonton is comfortable in. Apart from the set pieces, head coach Jeff Paulus’ believes the team was pretty comfortable throughout the match, especially when it turned the heat up in the second half.
After going down 3-0, Edmonton pulled one back through forward Oumar Diouck, who scored an important away goal. The Eddies were unlucky not to have scored a second goal deep into stoppage time. In fact, they did score, but it was controversially ruled out, as the referee felt Tomi Ameobi fouled York goalkeeper Nathan Ingham.
For Paulus, he hopes the team will continue where it left off in the first leg.
“The biggest thing we have to take from that game is the increase in intensity and that sense of desperation that we played with in the second half,” says Paulus. “We were more brave, we threw numbers forward and we moved it quicker. We have to fight and claw our way back into the game. We have to take that mentality in the second half and keep it for the entire game.
“I didn’t think we played bad at all, statistically we were the better team. But when you concede goals from set pieces it offsets the performance because at the end of the day, it’s about getting the win. That’s all that matters.”
The team has been back in training since its return from the east coast and the loss was a wake-up call to both players and coaching staff.
“I am really happy with the players response after that loss, they’ve been fantastic,” adds Paulus. “Even this week I had to look at myself and what I do as a manager and make some corrections in how I handle certain situations. I’ve done that, I’ve demanded more from the players and they responded well. I think some of their demeanor comes from me and how I carry myself and it’s translated over to the players now.”
The intensity throughout this week has been impressive and the players look very focused on the task at hand.
“These players want to come out and compete,” says Paulus. “It is in their DNA to win, to be competitive and get results. This week, it was all about giving them the right training sessions that would bring all that out naturally. We wanted to make everything very competitive, so we made the boxes smaller, we played more small-sided matches just to give them that competitive one-on-one nature.”
Scoring an away goal in a two-leg affair is always crucial. It gives teams a real chance to claw their way back into the game. It can also cast doubt on the opposition because they understand that the away goal can be the deciding factor in a two-leg affair.
“The away goal essentially counts for two,” says Paulus. “It was massive for us. Even just for the psyche of the team, because you go a few games without scoring, and in any sport, the longer you go without scoring, the less confidence you have in front of goal. So for us, that one goal takes the weight off our shoulders. They can exhale now, relax a little and let their natural traits come out. At the end of the day, being confident is massive and now they’ve got their confidence back. So that goal was huge for us.”
A good result on Wednesday could swing momentum in favour of the Eddies ahead of an important few weeks. The team is set for a busy 11-day stretch that sees it play four matches.
If there is ever a good time to generate momentum, it’s right now.