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Travel schedule catches up to FC Edmonton in loss to HFX Wanderers – Toronto Sun

Playing its third game in eight days, having to traverse the country three times, FC Edmonton ran out of gas in a 3-1 loss against HFX Wanderers FC in Halifax

HFX Wanderers FC striker Akeem Garcia, left, is challenged for the ball by FC Edmonton defender Luke Singh in Canadian Premier League play at the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, April 30, 2022.
HFX Wanderers FC striker Akeem Garcia, left, is challenged for the ball by FC Edmonton defender Luke Singh in Canadian Premier League play at the Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, April 30, 2022. Photo by Trevor MacMillan /HFX Wanderers FC

The schedule and travel eventually caught up to FC Edmonton.

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Playing its third game in eight days, having to traverse the country three times, FC Edmonton ran out of gas in a 3-1 loss against HFX Wanderers FC in Halifax on Saturday afternoon.

Julian Ulbricht scored from the penalty spot to give FC Edmonton the lead, but Cory Bent, Samuel Salter and Akeem Garcia countered for HFX Wanderers.

“We fought and we believed we could get something out of the game today,” FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch said. “But we had three games in eight days, travelling out east, then back home and then having to fly here. To be quite frank, that scheduling is completely inappropriate and unnecessary.

“No team in this league should have to go through what we went through — 36 hours ago, our team was sleeping on the floor at the Toronto airport. So if you throw that into it, there were a lot of reasons we could say why we weren’t at our best.”

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FC Edmonton started the week travelling to face Forge FC in Hamilton, Ont,. last Saturday, where they lost 3-0. They returned home to Edmonton to host defending champions Pacific FC on Wednesday, who they held to a scoreless tie. A day later, they were back on the plane, flying to Halifax for HFX Wanderers’ home opener.

“It was our third game in a week, so it did feel a little heavy in the legs,” said FC Edmonton midfielder Gabriel Bitar. “We got off to a good start and scored an early goal, but I feel like we relaxed a little bit in terms of composure.

“But this is our first time taking the lead all season, so I feel like we got a little riled up and we have to learn from these moments and go from there.”

FC Edmonton took the lead in the ninth minute after a nice combination passing play sent forward Kai Coore in alone before he was taken down by Wanderers defender Obeng Tabi in the penalty area.

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Ulbricht stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to give FC Edmonton its first lead of the season.

HFX Wanderers tied the game eight minutes later when a cross from Tabi down the left side fell onto the foot of Bent after a botched clearance from FC Edmonton defender Terique Mohammed. Bent was able to poke the ball past goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla and just over the goal line.

Later in the half, HFX Wanderers had an excellent opportunity to take the lead when a free kick swung into the penalty area was met by captain Andre Rampersad. His powerful header, however, was kept out of the net with an outstanding save by Vaikla, who was able to acrobatically swat it away.

“There is a lot of talent and potential in our group and it’s about players taking that opportunity and Andreas has done that,” Koch said. “He’s come in and played very well for us. It’s tough for a younger goalkeeper to play with young players in front of him, but he’s learning to manage the players in front of him.

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“He’s a big guy and it’s difficult to get anything past him, and he’s made a few big saves and he’s going to continue to grow.”

Just before the end of the half, Coore had an opportunity to regain the lead for FC Edmonton when the ball fell to him behind the Wanderers defence. Despite having an excellent look on goal, however, he was unable to hit the target with his shot.

Salter then gave the Wanderers the lead 15 minutes into the second half.

Midfielder Pierre Lamothe played a ball over top of the FC Edmonton back line where Zachary Fernandez was able to head it back across the penalty area into the path of Salter. He was able to collect the ball and cut it back across past Vaikla into the far corner of the net.

FC Edmonton did have a chance to tie the game minutes later when Tobias Warschewski found himself inside the Wanderers penalty area, cut inside his defender and fired a left-footed shot, which goalkeeper Christian Oxner was able to tip over the crossbar.

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“The game was there for us,” Koch said. “We scored early and allowed them to come back in the game and we weren’t happy with the way the second half went, and obviously, the result.”

Toward the end of the game, FC Edmonton ran out of steam and HFX Wanderers took advantage. They were awarded a penalty kick in the 70th minute when Vaikla ran into Fernandez in a race for the ball into the penalty box.

Fernandez won the race to the ball and headed it past Vaikla, who then was ruled to have interfered with the winger by colliding with him.

Garcia stepped up and took the penalty kick, rolling it into the bottom corner of the net as Vaikla dove the other way.

“With all the travel, once the game gets going in the 50th and 60th minute, you start to feel it in your legs,” Bitar said. “But that’s no excuse, we were up 1-0 in this game and we could have come out with a result, but we couldn’t unfortunately.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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