Final Score: FC Edmonton 3-1 Valour FC Goalscorers: Ongaro (13'), Warschewski (55'), Didic (63'); Baquero (88') Game of the 2021 season: 36 CPL match: 170
Match in a minute or lessFC Edmonton delivered their best performance of the season so far in their first game at home since 2019, seeing off league-leading Valour FC 3-1 at Clarke Stadium. Easton Ongaro put them on the board early with some deft footwork and a good finish, and Tobias Warschewki and Amer Didic added two more in the second half as the Eddies sailed on to their third win of the year. Valour added a consolation goal at the end, thanks to a long-distance strike from Andy Baquero and a fortuitous deflection, but the away side were, in the end, bested by an Edmonton team that successfully made a statement with a homecoming victory.
Three ObservationsDirect balls from Didic, Gorskie help Eddies get forward Edmonton took a fairly direct approach to certain phases of this game, with Amer Didic and Hunter Gorskie, from centre-back and central midfield respectively, seemingly very keen to pick out a long-distance pass up to a winger or forward in space. They were quite successful in that; Didic, one of the CPL's best at playing comfortably out of the back, was able to rocket a few diagonal passes well past the Valour midfield, and Gorskie had a good eye for timing perfect passes directly forward. On a stat sheet, it'll look like Didic struggled for accuracy with his passes, with an uncharacteristically low 58.6% success rate, but a quick look at the pass map for both him and Gorskie certainly suggests the direct, forward balls were deliberate strategy: Overall, the Eddies looked to get forward and cut through the congested Valour midfield as quickly as possible, which worked out quite well and allowed them to get Easton Ongaro and Tobias Warschewski on the ball to hold play up. Didic in particular has a real desire to play passes right over the top of the midfield, and he has a knack for spotting open space for attacking players to run into. "He's a fantastic footballer," Edmonton coach Alan Koch said of Didic specifically. "You mention long passes, but he can pass short, middle range, he can spray the ball all over the place. Whatever we need him to do, because he has that in his toolkit." Valour 'sloppy' in early stages, gives too much space in front of backline On the whole, Rob Gale wasn't completely disheartened by his team's performance in the loss -- particularly their ability to hold onto the ball and probe the Eddies in the 20 minutes or so before halftime. They did come out of the contest with a strong advantage in possession, although they weren't necessarily able to get into the attacking third as much as they would've liked. The concern, in Gale's eyes, is in the "It's just sloppy goals, really, that was the disappointing thing," Gale said postmatch. "You can't give teams goals. The first one's a scramble, an appeal for a penalty, it's a broken play. We had the chance to clear it and he's got one over the goalie, it's as scrappy a goal as you'll ever see. We got a foothold in the game after about 15, 20 minutes; it was comfortable, I felt we were going in the right area." The Valour boss added that the Eddies succeeded in doing what he would've expected them to try, with balls into target men and threats from set pieces parts of the game that could've been better dealt with: "We know if you give them set pieces, they're going to get crosses in for their target man," he said. "There's no great surprise about what they're going to do, and you've got to deal with that and get around the second goals; they've scored a couple goals like that, a couple scrambles. I just felt we allowed a bit of encouragement for that in the early going; once we regrouped it was better, when we tried to deny their balls in. After the goal there wasn't too much threat, couple of long shots from Fraser (Aird), but we can deal with that." With Rocco Romeo making his debut for the club at centre-back alongside Rodrigo Reyes, who made just his third start for Valour, a learning curve was always likely. The backline did indeed settle in a little more after nervy moments in the early going; when set, they were hard to break down, but a few miscommunications or missed assignments in the box might've handed Edmonton more space than Valour would've hoped. Gale explained that, for him, the defenders themselves did well, but there was space in front of the backline that was left unattended in Valour's midfield press, which let Ongaro and Warschewski operate between the lines. FCE dual strikers, holdup play a handful for backline "When you play two strikers and both score, that's a good night," Koch said postgame. Indeed, this game was probably the most Edmonton has been rewarded so far by this two-striker system they've been using at times recently with Ongaro and Warschewski at the head of a 4-4-2. Both players made themselves a real handful for Valour, constantly moving across the pitch, and alternately dropping deep or pressing high, to give Edmonton's attack a real fluidity off the ball. Ongaro and Warschewski will emerge from this game with nearly identical heatmaps, but they played off each other very well, choosing moments to either drift apart and stretch the centre-backs, or come in tight together to look for little give-and-go passes. From open play, the Eddies looked constantly to play into one of the strikers' feet, and their holdup play was excellent; Warschewski in particular made 27 passes in the attacking half, many of them with his back to goal as he looked to play Ongaro or a venturing midfielder in toward the net. In set piece situations, Edmonton were more dangerous than ever; Didic scored the headed goal, but Ongaro's goal also came from a Valour breakdown after a corner kick. Ongaro and Warschewski, again focused on pulling Valour's defenders out of position and overall causing chaos, were difficult to deal with in most situations. "We expect them both to create, we expect them both to score; it doesn't happen every game, obviously, but for both of them to get rewarded is awesome," Koch added. "I know a lot of people judge strikers just on goals and accolades, but that's not what we're about. We're about the team first, and you can see Easton puts in shifts every single night. Toby puts in shifts every single night. Matt Durrans came off the bench tonight, he put a shift in. So that's what we expect from all of them, but it was very enjoyable to see them get rewarded with both scoring goals tonight."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchAmer Didic, FC Edmonton The Eddies' stalwart at the back had his full footballing repertoire on display this game, with eight clearances, two interceptions, and myriad pinpoint long passes to dangerous areas -- not to mention a trademark headed goal off a set piece. Didic was disappointed postmatch to miss out on the clean sheet, but the centre-back was a real driver of Edmonton's success on Saturday.
What’s next?Both teams will be on the road after this game. FC Edmonton will head south to face Cavalry FC in the first Al Classico of the 2021 season on Tuesday, August 3 (9 pm ET/7 pm MT), while Valour will move westward to Vancouver Island, where they'll play Pacific FC on Wednesday, August 4 (9:30 pm ET/6:30 pm PT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.