HALIFAX — Playing three matches in one week can be a very daunting challenge. Add in the cross-country travel, not once, but twice, and that makes it extremely tough.
FC Edmonton battled hard against Halifax Wanderers FC, but a tough second half led to a 3-1 loss, Saturday afternoon at Wanderers Grounds.
The loss caps off a hectic week for the Eddies, who played last weekend in Hamilton against Forge FC, came home to play top-ranked Pacific FC on Wednesday and then flew across the country on Saturday to face the Wanderers in their home opener.
FC Edmonton falls to 0-3-2 on the season, while the Wanderers improve to 2-0-2.
“This is our third game in a week, so we did feel a little heavy in the legs,” said Eddies midfielder Gabriel Bitar.
“We did get off to a good start, scored an early goal, and I feel like we relaxed a little bit in terms of composure. This was our first time going up all season, so I feel like we got pretty riled up and we’ve got to learn from these moments and progress.”
Striker Julian Ulbricht gave the Eddies a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute on a penalty kick, but Wanderers forward Cory Bent tied the match at 1-1 in the 17th minute.
Forward Samuel Salter and midfielder Akeem Garcia scored in the 61st and 71st minute to seal the win for Halifax.
Eddies head coach Alan Koch knew his travel weary group would be in tough against the Wanderers, who were playing in front of their rowdy home fans for the first time this season.
They did a great job of silencing the home crowd early, when forward Kairo Coore got hauled down inside the box, awarding the Eddies a penalty kick.
Ulbricht, made no mistake with a little stutter step move to give the Eddies the 1-0 lead, but the Wanderers quickly snapped away the momentum from the early goal and tied it at 1-1 when Bent got just enough of his foot on the ball off a crossing pass to beat Eddies’ goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla.
Salter entered the match to start the second half, and gave his squad the lead when he took a perfect pass from Zachary Fernandez off of a header and picked the corner to make it 2-1.
Then, just 10 minutes later, Vaikla was assessed a yellow card after a collision with Fernandez, and Garcia made no mistake on the penalty kick.
“I wasn’t surprised to see them score after we went up 1-0,” said FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“This is a difficult place to play, we knew they would come at us and create opportunities, but things just didn’t go well for us in the second half, and that’s disappointing.
“When it became 3-1, it made it really difficult for us to get ourselves back in it, because you could see the guys running out of energy.”
SAVE OF THE GAME: Despite giving up the three goals, Vaikla was rock solid for the Eddies, making one of the top saves of the season, off a Andre Rampersand header. The 25-year-old leaped into the air to take away the sure goal.
“There’s a lot of talent and potential in our group, and it’s about players taking their opportunities and Andreas has done that. He’s played very well for us,” said Koch.
“He’s made some big saves, and he will continue to learn and grow.”
RACKING UP THE AIR MILES: There are always tough stretches in any season schedule, and the Eddies travelled nearly 10,000 this past week, and played three games.
Edmonton to Hamilton, back to Edmonton and then to Halifax is one difficult trek.
“Three games in seven days. Traveling east and then coming back and then having to fly here (Halifax),” said Koch.
“To be frank, we shouldn’t have to go through this type of scheduling. It’s inappropriate and unnecessary. No team should have to go through what we’ve gone through this week.”