FC Edmonton unable to spoil Cavalry FC's party in Calgary

FC Edmonton striker Easton Ongaro challenges Jay Wheeldon of Cavalry FC at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on Oct 19, 2019. Tony Lewis / CPL

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FC Edmonton were hoping to finish their Canadian Premier League season with a win and keep their rivals in Calgary from claiming the Fall Competition title to go with its Spring Competition crown.

And for 75 minutes it appeared as though FC Edmonton was going to spoil the part for Cavalry FC.

Yet, eventually Edmonton succumbed to Cavalry’s pressure and went on to lose 3-1 in the latest edition of the Al Classico.

With the win, Cavalry clinched the second-half title. They’ll face Forge FC of Hamilton in the two-game-total-goal final for the CPL championships starting next week in Ontario.

“I’m really happy with our first half, we got the ball in good areas, we had three fairly good looks on goal and just missed the net wide on all three,” said FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus. “I thought we defended well, we were forcing them to play long. They did have a few moments where they had good possession, but they didn’t really cause us any issues outside of hitting a goal post once.”

Edmonton went into the contest off an impressive 3-1 win against Pacific FC on Wednesday in its final home game of the year, which ended a 10-game winless drought.

FC Edmonton were still in reach of third place overall and stood up well in the first half against Cavalry, who have been the class of the league in the inaugural CPL season.

In the second half, however, Cavalry stepped up its game and it was mainly one-way traffic towards the FC Edmonton net until the breakthrough came in the 76th minutes.

Cavalry FC midfielder Jose Escalante chased down a cross to the far post, which appeared to be heading out of play, and cut it back in the middle where Sergio Camargo hammered it past goalkeeper Dylon Powley.

Jordan Brown made it 2-0 four minutes later with a rocket from the top of the penalty area, which smashed the underside of the crossbar and dropped in just behind the goal line.

“In the second half, we came out and stopped doing the things we had been doing in the first half,” Paulus said. “Cavalry of course, they have the ability to have the same tempo for the entire 90 minutes. Unless you’re prepared to match that, you’ll struggle against them in the second half.

“I thought Calgary seemed hungrier in the second half and we tried to play out of the back a little too much. We tried to play in that middle third area and we kept losing possession and we could never sustain anything.”

Cavalry increased the lead to 3-0 in the 86th minute when Escalante converted a penalty kick after Nico Pasquotti was tripped at the edge of the penalty area by Mele Temguia.

“I’m proud of our lads for sure, but maybe one of those small differences between us and Calgary is those Calgary players do not quit on anything until the ref blows the whistle,” Paulus said. “Here we are watching a ball thinking it’s going out and they don’t quit on it, they keep it in and they score a goal.

“The second goal was a wonder strike, it was hit so well and so it is what it is. The third one, the penalty, whether it was in the box or on the line, it was a foul, it was the right call to make.”

FC got one back in the 90th minute when Easton Ongaro scored his 10th goal of the season. Ongaro headed in a ball knocked back across the box by Temguia off a corner kick.

Ongaro, 21, has had an outstanding first professional season and represents a bright future for FC Edmonton, who were playing a number of young, talented players down the stretch of the season.

“We’re delighted (assistant coach) Sean (Fleming) and I,” Paulus said. “We get to watch these kids in training every day. Prince (Amanda) has come on and he’s waited the entire season for his minutes and he had such a great performance on Wednesday (3-1 win). But what I really wish is that people got to see what Sean and I get to see every day, which is this kid continually working. He’s earned his chance and he has some really good potential.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest