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Super strike from Surprenant gives FC Edmonton another win

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Rein Baart
Alex Surprenant’s audacious chip and a last-second diving stop from Rein Baart were the two defining moments of FC Edmonton’s 1-0 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks in NASL action Saturday.

FC Edmonton is now 2-0-0 in its first season of Div-2 soccer, and will go for a sweep of its three-game road trip Wednesday when the club visits the Carolina RailHawks.

After a scramble in the Atlanta penalty area early in the first half, the ball was sent well out of the box by the Silverbacks defenders. Surprenant came up from the left back position and, recognizing that goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer was still not set after the scramble in the box, sent a perfect lofted effort that the Atlanta keeper could only watch go over his head and dip under the bar and into the goal.

“The first half, I was wide open all the time,” said Surprenant. “Atlanta’s right winger was playing too far inside, so it gave me a lot of chances to push up.”

But, even though FC Edmonton dominated for most of the match, it took a last-gasp save from keeper Rein Baart to preserve the win, after a bizarre sequence right before the referee blew the final whistle.

Maurer had come up to join the Silverbacks’ attack as they pushed for an equalizer. FC Edmonton was able to get the ball out, and a ball was rolled towards the empty Atlanta goal from the midfield line. But, it went wide. Atlanta, down to 10 men after sub Jon Cox was sent off for violent conduct, got the ball back up the field, and Shane Moroney ran onto a long, bouncing pass in the FCE penalty area. His shot forced Baart into his best save of the night.

“That last minute was scary,” admitted FCE assistant coach Dave Randall. “But we should have had them buried after the first half. We should have been two or three goals up.”

As good as FCE was in terms of holding the ball and creating chances, the finishing was the problem. Conrad Smith had several chances to score. Dan Antoniuk, who came in as a third-minute substitute, pushed a perfect cross from Suprenant over the bar.

And the misses kept coming in the second half. Smith had Maurer at his mercy, but sent a shot just wide of the far post after he had broken through the Silverbacks backline. Kyle Yamada had a one-on-one chance against Maurer turned away. Shaun Saiko had a 72nd minute effort turned aside by Maurer.

“Yes, we missed a lot of chances,” said Surprenant. “We should have killed the game. Right after I scored my goal, we should have scored two more.”

Because Edmonton didn’t kill the game, Atlanta got some life, some belief, late in the game, even after Cox’s sending off. And, finally, Moroney got his chance.

Atlanta had one chance of note earlier in the second half, when Junior Sandoval’s free kick skidded off the top of the crossbar.

Still FCE fans need to be happy that, for the second game in a row, the possession game, the quick movement, in coach Harry Sinkgraven’s 4-3-3 system created a heck of a lot of chances.

“The one thing that stands out about this team is that we can score goals,” said Surprenant, who signed with FCE after being part of the Montreal Impact’s system. “In the preseason, we scored about four goals a game, and we have started off the season very well. And that’s important; in this league, there are not a lot of goals. With Montreal, we always had a good team, but we had a hard time scoring goals. And that happened in their first game against Tampa Bay (which the Impact lost 1-0). They struggle to score goals.”

But, is a 2-0-0 start (with both wins on the road, to boot) by the expansion club causing some people to change their preseason picks? Is FC Edmonton a lot better than seventh or eighth?

“The thing about respect is that it is built up over an extended period of time,” said Randall. “It was important for the club to develop Canadian players, to develop players from Alberta. I think if we keep playing like this, we will be respected. But, we can’t control what other people think about us.”

A sore spot for FCE is the loss of striker Alex Semenets, who went down clutching his leg in the third minute. Randall said it’s a bad hamstring pull, and it will keep the forward out of FCE’s lineup for an extended period.

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