It was perhaps the biggest season in the history of the FC Edmonton Academy, and the staff and players certainly did not disappoint.
With no first team taking the pitch in 2018, the main focus of the club shifted to the Academy. A program that normally goes relatively unnoticed suddenly had soccer-hungry supporters cheering them on at matches – not to mention a little bit of extra media attention.
“It was 100 percent the biggest year,” FC Edmonton Academy Technical Director Jeff Paulus confirms. “It’ll get bigger too, with some upcoming announcements for the CPL as a few of these boys earn spots.”
The Academy began their EDSA Premier League season with two straight clean sheet victories, before dropping a 1-0 decision to Victoria 2. That loss turned out to be the only on-field defeat the Academy suffered over the course of the 18 match campaign, as they finished with a 13-3-2 record and led the league with 55 goals for. The Academy officially clinched the league title on August 20th, with one game left to play, as they defeated that same Victoria club they had lost to earlier in the season by a score of 5-0.
“This group was consistent in how they played, we played the way we wanted to play and the kids bought in. They were a good group to work with all year,” explains Paulus.
Sandwiched in the middle of their Premier League campaign was a first-ever trip to the SuperCup in Northern Ireland, one of the premier youth football tournaments in the world. The Academy boys impressed at the U-17 event with their entertaining style of play, and would finish atop their group. A loss in penalties and another last-minute defeat left the club with an 8th place finish.
“This gave these kids a chance to play against European opposition their age,” says Paulus. “They came back with the knowledge that they are as good as players in other places of the world, and I think they carried that forward.”
The Premier Division Provincials were held over the September long weekend, featuring the top two clubs from both the Edmonton and Calgary Premier Leagues. The FC Edmonton Academy would win all four matches at the tournament, including a 2-0 victory over Croatia Dinamo in the gold medal metch.
“To be at the final, and to watch their composure, even at 1-0, these kids have no fear,” Paulus says. “To see the way they went about their performance and went about the way we want to play the game was unbelievable.”
“We are incredibly proud of the Academy players and staff for the season they have had,” says FC Edmonton co-owner Tom Fath. “The players’ hard work and accomplishments are important experiences to help them reach their potential. It is a vital goal for us to contribute to soccer development in Canada through our Academy.”
A successful season like this one certainly raises expectations for future campaigns, and Paulus wants the Academy to continue to aim high.
“This does raise the bar. Now we’ve seen the level we can play at, and we know that we can compete in Ireland at the Super Cup, so the next group now, their goal is to win, so it’s going to get much more difficult.”
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