Canadian Premier League front-runner Pacific FC, 2-1 loser to FC Edmonton on Wednesday night at Clarke Stadium in the Alberta capital, is suddenly feeling the metaphorical hot breath on the back of its neck.
Two-time defending league champion Forge FC of Hamilton has moved two points behind PFC with two games in hand, and all that despite the demands of also representing the CPL in the CONCACAF Champions League qualifying rounds. Cavalry FC of Calgary, meanwhile, is three points behind PFC with a game in hand.
“The table is the table. It’s a marathon,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.
FC Edmonton forward Tobias Warschewski, who leads with CPL with six assists, is showing why he is the best distributor in the league. The former Germany U-19 player and Dortmund prospect found Azriel Gonzalez in the box, with a pass from the far right side, for the header that opened scoring at 30 minutes. Six-foot-six FC Edmonton striker Easton Ongaro, who has terrorized PFC this season by scoring in all four games against the Island club, made it 2-0 at 37 minutes for his CPL second-leading 10th goal of the season.
Two-way midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour’s first goal of the season pulled PFC to within one just three minutes into the second half but the Tridents could not find the equalizer despite pressing with 63 percent of the ball possession in the game.
“Edmonton came out with more urgency and we dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” said Kah.
“We had the upper hand in the second half but didn’t take our chances. We were close but not close enough. We created better chances on the night but Edmonton was ruthless when it needed to be and we were not ruthless.”
Among the PFC close calls was a Terran Campbell effort off the crossbar in the waning moments.
“Edmonton had more energy than us in the first half,” said the quietly effective Hojabrpour.
“In the second half, on another day, maybe another one goes in for us. It didn’t seem the ball wanted to go in today for us.”
Although 20 points separated the clubs going into the game, the seventh-place Eddies (5-10-7) have given PFC (11-5-6 in league and 13-5-6 overall) fits this season and have a win, loss and two draws against the Tridents in four meetings.
“We see it as a challenge to play the top club,” said the German-import Warschewski.
“There was good fight from us tonight.”
FC Edmonton bench boss Alan Koch, a former Major League Soccer head coach with FC Cincinnati, said he was proud of his club: “We played fantastic football for the first 45 minutes and then hung on and weathered the storm.”
PFC concludes its five-game road swing (four league games and the Canadian Championship quarter-final win in Calgary) on Monday in Halifax against the HFX Wanderers (7-7-8).