Final Score: FC Edmonton 1-1 Valour FC Goalscorers: Warschewski 90+5'; Baquero 45+1' Game of the 2022 season: 3 CPL match: 254
Match in a minute or lessTobias Warschewski was the hero FC Edmonton needed on Sunday afternoon at Clarke Field, scoring a stunning overhead kick in the final moment of the match to bank a 1-1 draw against Valour FC to open their 2022 CPL season. Andy Baquero had given the visitors a lead with the last kick of the first half, curling a low shot through traffic to make it 1-0 for Valour, but the Eddies steadily improved in the second half to create more attacking chances, and they were finally rewarded at the absolute end.
Windy conditions impact Eddies' tacticsThough it's never fun to talk much about the weather as a factor when it comes to a football match, there's no denying the high winds in Edmonton had an influence on how both sides were able to play, especially in the first half. In the opening 45, Edmonton didn't have much choice but to sit in a compact defensive block and try to strike on the counter-attack. They did so quite well, with a solid five-man backline holding mostly firm and double-pivot midfielders Shamit Shome and Gabriel Bitar sitting quite deep in front of them, trying to find Azriel Gonzalez or Tobias Warschewski out on the wings. However, they had trouble getting the ball consistently out of their half, particularly when trying to clear it with long passes -- goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla saw a few of his goal kicks blown backward in the wind, leaving him with a first-half passing accuracy of just 58%. Valour, meanwhile, tried to cause trouble with crosses (14 of them in the first half) that drifted close to goal and often troubled the Eddies' defenders, though the visitors weren't quite able to get strikers on the end of them consistently. They, too, sat back more when playing into the wind, inviting more pressure from the home side -- perhaps too much. As one might expect, Edmonton came alive much more in the second half and began to send wingbacks T-boy Fayia and Marcus Simmons forward on overlapping runs, though they still had trouble getting touches in the box or making accurate crosses. Nonetheless, persistence paid off for them. "It was a game of two halves, and it was severely influenced by the weather today," Edmonton coach Alan Koch said postmatch. "We knew the wind was gonna change the entire game and how we were going to play, and we said to the players before the first half started, just weather it, hang on, which we almost did -- unfortunately we got daggered right at the end. So the guys were pretty disappointed at halftime, but we knew we could flip the script. "We knew the game was going to be different; we didn't really come out with as much energy and gusto as we wanted in the second half, but I think once we made a few subs and the guys started to grow into the game, you can see us start to impose ourselves."
Valour fullbacks key to attacking systemIn attack, Valour seemed intent on pushing the ball forward via the wide lanes, with fullbacks Federico Peña on the left and Andy Baquero on the right constantly drifting high up the pitch to try and attack Edmonton's five-man backline. Both defenders are quite good on the ball and have the ability to take on defenders, which they did without hesitation especially in the first half. Baquero and Peña both looked keen to cut inside from the flanks and try to thread passes between centre-backs. Of course, Baquero drifting in from the touchline was how Valour found their goal; he was unmarked when the ball came to him around the top of the box and he continued to cut inward before unleashing his left-footed strike. The two fullbacks are quite different players -- Baquero is very comfortable cutting in and playing in midfield, and Peña is a little more direct in the way he attacks vertically. Valour coach Phil Dos Santos mentioned postmatch that Baquero and Peña had been two of the club's strongest players throughout preseason, so he anticipated them having an important role to play in this opening match. "Andy's played a lot in his career as a central midfielder, so he liked to take these inside positions," Dos Santos explained. "You don't see him project himself as much as Federico. We kept telling him, when there's the opportunity you need to try and go; you have the ability, the technical quality to do it. "Feds is Feds. He works a lot, he's very committed to what this team is about and I think he's a bit underrated. He's someone whose work ethic is so big, his desire to win and to succeed is there. It favours him to play on the left because he gets his right foot with an open field, and he's done well."
Warschewski, Edmonton rewarded for second half improvementAfter spending so much time under pressure in the first half, FC Edmonton grew into the game well in the second frame. The Eddies had seven shots in the second half after zero in the first frame, and they posted 1.19 expected goals -- after, again, generating nil in the first 45. At times, it seemed they might end the match frustrated after a few golden opportunities went wasted -- particularly Julian Ulbricht's headed miss around the 70-minute mark. Tobias Warschewski, though, stood out above the others. He played much of the game out on the wing, but with his silky footwork and ability to dribble he did well to suck in defenders and create space for Ulbricht or opposite winger Azriel Gonzalez. Of course, playing on the wing, Warschewski at first struggled to get into the box -- he finished the game with just three touches in the penalty area -- but he covered quite a lot of ground with his workrate in possession. According to Alan Koch, it took Warschewski a while to get into a groove in this game -- as was the case for the entire team, to be fair -- but the German striker ultimately rewarded his coach's patience. "He struggled a little bit, and I think it's the first game of the season for all of us, as you can see right now," Koch said postmatch. "Todd May, who's my new assistant coach, came to me with about 15 minutes left and he said Tobi's not making the impact we want him to make. And I said, he's our best finisher, so we have to leave him on the field. So I'm glad he made me feel good about myself today. "But I think we all know that Tobi's a special player. He's a player that's capable of doing special things, and obviously that was a world class goal today. I'm incredibly happy to see him get rewarded for his effort and his perseverance in the game because I think he had some ups and he had some downs in the game." Adding to that, Koch was quick to point out the significance of the moment Warschewski delivered, giving Edmonton's dedicated supporters something to cheer about after such a challenging offseason for the club. "I'm very, very happy for everybody that stood by this club and is committed to professional football in this community," Koch said. "If I got interviewed the second after the game I probably would've been a bit of a wreck to be honest, because this has been incredibly emotional. To see our team and our supporters get rewarded with what's probably going to be goal of the season right away in the first week, it's pretty gratifying."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchTobias Warschewski, FC Edmonton The German striker was the brightest and most involved part of FC Edmonton's attack on Sunday, with a team-high 58 touches, 11 dribbles, and nine duels won -- not to mention the stunning goal he scored to earn the draw.
What’s next?Edmonton will stay at home next weekend, hosting York United at Clarke Field on Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. ET). Valour, meanwhile, head west to take on Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium on Sunday, April 17 (1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.