Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton The rabbit strikes: FC Edmonton stuns Montreal

The rabbit strikes: FC Edmonton stuns Montreal


It was spotted maybe an hour before the teams went onto the Clarke Stadium turf.

A rabbit. Maybe it was a hare. Semantics.

Fans saw it. Security people saw it. FC Edmonton’s harbinger of good luck. How important is the rabbit as the spirit animal for every FCE player? Each FC Edmonton jersey has the image of a running rabbit pressed on the back, below the collar.

The supporters know; when a rabbit is seen at the stadium, good things happen for FC Edmonton. Maybe it was the mystical power of the rabbit that made Montreal Impact defender Karl Ouimette blow an 89th-minute defensive header on a long kick. Maybe it was the rabbit that gave FCE substitute Michael Nonni the foresight to jump on Ouimette’s turnover, round keeper Evan Bush, and score the goal that gave the NASL Eddies their first-ever Amway Canadian Championship win over MLS opposition.

The rabbit, er, FC Edmonton 2, Montreal Impact 1.

Yes, the Impact got the road goal — and still have everything to play for next week when the scene shifts to Stade Saputo. But Nonni’s goal gave FC Edmonton its most famous win in team history.

It started with a long goal kick from FCE keeper John Smits. The ball sailed all the way to the top of the Impact’s penalty area. Ouimette got underneath it, meaning to flick it back to Bush. And then it all went horribly wrong for Montreal.

“I thought that I’m going to take a gamble on the ball,” said Nonni. “He’d been flicking it back to the keeper all game long… when I got the first touch, I knew I was going to bury it.”

After scoring, Nonni ran to the supporters’ section and leaped in.

“It was a great feeling, those guys have been supporting us all season long, in snow, in rain, in freezing cold.”

FCE’s Hanson Boakai pulls away from the Impact’s Karl Ouimette. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Last year, FCE coach Colin Miller was just one signature away from releasing Nonni. But he was swayed by the Canadian fullback’s work ethic — and he decided to keep him on. This year, Nonni has earned playing time and is currently the author of the biggest goal in FCE history.

“He has poured so much into being a professional footballer and sticking with FC Edmonton,” said Miller. “He deserves an enormous amount of credit.”

For the first 70 minutes, the story of the game was teenager Hanson Boakai.

Last week, Boakai set up two goals and scored another as the Eddies eliminated the Fury from the Voyageurs Cup. While the goals didn’t flow as freely in this match, which pitted MLS opposition against a team that currently sits dead last in the 10-team NASL, Boakai kept up his string of hellacious cup performances.

After Edmonton had gone down 1-0 to a Jack McInerney headed goal, Boakai went on an inspired run down the middle, blew around Impact midfielder Calum Mallace, then slotted a perfect defence-splitting pass for Tomi Ameobi, who calmly slotted the ball home.

Ameobi could have given the Eddies a winning goal later in the second half, but he headed a perfect cross from Boakai over the bar.

But Boakai’s performance was about more than those couple of passes; through the 70 minutes he played, he was the most dynamic, most dangerous player on the pitch. In the first half, he fizzed a shot just over the bar, and continually won ball after ball. He had Impact players back in away from him, as they worried about him shifting gears and blowing around them.

He showed a national audience and the 1,946 in attendance that he’s certainly something special. But, due to tiring legs, Miller took Boakai out in the 70th minute.

“This was a big moment for the team, especially for me, being the youngest player on the field, to play against big players like Patrice Bernier.

“Everybody likes to score goals, but I love it when I do assists… They (Montreal) couldn’t play in the midfield tonight. They had to hoof long balls, they had to force it.”

McInerney headed home a Patrice Bernier free kick early in the second half to give the Impact a vital road goal and the lead, just a minute after a bizarre miss. After a poor kick-out from Smits was intercepted by Bernier, the ball went to Blake Smith on the wing. Smits did well to come out and deflect the shot, but the ball popped up in the air and right to McInerney, who was about five feet from goal and had nothing but net to look at. But McInerney headed the ball off the bar.

The rabbit. It had to be the rabbit.

“This is a massive result,” said Miller. “I hope it kickstarts our season. “If we play like this consistently, we’ll be a handful for other teams in NASL.”

Montreal coach Frank Klopas said his team has no excuses. Yes, some regulars were left behind, but Klopas said the team has trained for the better part of four months — on turf — so there should have been no issues in Edmonton.

But there were.

“Goals we gave up — unacceptable,” said Klopas. “In the end, we come all this way, you come away 1-1 and you say, OK. But to lose the game? Not a good feeling.”

And, good news for Edmonton. Rabbits are often seen in Quebec, too. They just need to find a way to get one near Stade Saputo next week.

Or maybe the Impact need to hire out Martin Picard to make pre-game meal of rabbit stew for the team.


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  1. Tomas

    May 9, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Historic win by the Eddies! Congrats to Coach Miller and the players! Really enjoyed the game.

    The couple of anti-Miller posters want to use even a great win by team to criticise-pathetic! They don’t even want us to celebrate the win? The win is historic and whether we win or lose next week won’t change it. About Boakai, as Steve Sandor said, due to tiring legs he was subbed out, better to sub him out than to lose him to injury.Let the haters hate but we true supporters will celebrate!

  2. Soccerfan

    May 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    @left back, good point about Miller. I thought it was odd taking off Hanson. His brand of soccer is terrible. @FCE supporter, we will see what happens next week. I will hoot and holler if FC Edmonton pulls off the home and away series. I am a realist and going into Montreal could be devastating. I am keeping quiet.

    Hmmm, Steve, I PVR’d the game and could see shots of the old grandstand and there was literally nobody there. Why do you continue to drink the ‘kool-aid?” I understand that they employ you and you probably have your dream job but there is no doubt in my mind that they cook the numbers. I have it from reliable sources in the past that GM”s would put out false attendance numbers for the Fath group and it is quite clear that Proudfoot needs to do the same to save his job. Just because you give out a few hundred UNPAID tickets does not mean that people are buying the product or supporting the product. I would like to know actual attendance last night. I am positive it was not over 1000. The front office barely promotes the team.

    These next two games are going to be very interesting!!!!!

    • Tomas

      May 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      Its untrue to say there was “literally nobody in the old grandstand”.It certainly wasn’t full but there were people there.The Oil Kings had a good crowd at their junior hockey playoff game so that affected the turnout but for sure the club has to do much more marketing. Coach Miller and the players deserved a full house for the big historic win against the MLS’s Impact.

  3. left back

    May 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Watched the game on the tele like many… as there was no one at the game. One thing is clear… FCE desperately need ‘state of the art’ new turf in Clarke park… I really noticed players fighting the ball… it just doesn’t sit down on that surface… and makes it difficult for anyone to play.

    I don’t want to be a ‘hater’ or continue to be negative on these threads…. BUT….

    What is CM doing? At 1 -1 he takes off our wee little magician Boakai… then takes off Ameobi 5 minutes later and replaces them with defensive players? At 1 – 1. EFC was playing well and getting the better of Montreal…. so….. CM decides to shut up shop?

    I think CM doesn’t understand the away goals rule. At 1 – 1 (at home) you are losing. You need to score. Bringing on defensive players with 20 minutes left is pathetic. Go for it CM! keep the wee lad on and bring off a defender… and throw another attacking player on. I thought it was going to end with a 1 – 1 score line and CM was going to say “we are in the driver’s seat” again…. jeez… he is a piece of work. But… Montreal makes a horrific error and FCE score and they win. All that does is mask the fact that CM is so negative. If i was Boakai… when my number was called to come off… I would have sat down in the middle of the park and refused to come off… how can you be the best player on the park then get removed? Without him they have zero offence.

    On the plus… I thought R.Jones was excellent last night. Composed and good work rate. Watson could play in the MLS no questions asked. Excellent again. I love the fact that he was screaming at Smits for not commanding his box. Boakai… still early… but he is a special player.

    Negative… Jonke has the touch of a mule. Smits is hopeless. The Montreal goal was amateur Sunday league stuff. Laing and M. Roberts… again… distribution out of the back is laughable. One free kick we had…. Laing punted it 40 yards in the air to their goalie.. These are paid pro players…. Roberts… I cringe every time he has to think…. yes… you 2 can defend… but maybe track and field is more suitable.

    Even though it was NASL v MLS… and the underdog won… I would have liked to see Edmonton be more positive. Great win… yes… horrible error by Montreal to gift Edmonton a lifeline.

    It really only masks the fact that CM made brutal tactical decisions.

    • Steven Sandor

      May 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      One thing. While the attendance last night, in my estimation, wasn’t close to regular NASL game (in decent weather) or the Ottawa cup match, it’s impossible to judge the crowd by TV. Most of the fans still choose to sit in the old grandstand, which is the side the cameras are on, not shooting towards.

  4. Scottish Teeth

    May 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    It was truly a historic win, but it shouldn’t be a massive surprise. FCE was unlucky to not come away with a win in Vancouver last year. The NASL gets better every season and the gap between it and MLS is paper thin. But as others here have noted, the biggest challenge for FCE is not on the pitch, it is in the front office. There is no marketing for this team, no awareness in the community. Management needs to put together an effective marketing plan and get some bums in the seats as soon as possible.

  5. footy

    May 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Historical win over the Impact! That little Boakai is a gem, he’s pulling the strings allready within the team. Really great and I didn’t see it coming.

    Having said that, I hate what Klopas has done to Montreal. If you’re working at little ol’ FC Edmonton, it makes sense to play soccer like that. But in Montreal, with 2 of the league’s top scorers in the team, his football looks dreadful. And to think that this was WITH the creativity of Bernier… Montreal usually plays with only defensive mids. Incredible.

  6. FCE Supporter

    May 8, 2014 at 8:48 am

    And cue the usual comments from FCE’s worst supporter!!! I personally will enjoy the biggest win of FCE’s history and wish them the best of luck next week! A supporter supports and a hater hates, which one are you soccer fan!

  7. Stuttgert4life

    May 8, 2014 at 7:18 am

    It was a great win for the Eddies and us fans have never been happier. The legacy of the Rally Rabbit lives on and is now immortalized!!!

    I however totally agree that the amount of fans in the stands is not acceptable, we need to do better. Marketing to soccer families and corporations is ok but betting everything on it is not.
    I have yet to see some king of marketing towards the 21-35 year old bar crowd that is the essential of every supporters group out there. We as individuals can only do so much, it takes an effort from the FO to get that crowd into the stands.
    Maybe the win tonight gets some kind of buzz going in this city for our Eddies!!!!!!!

  8. Chris

    May 8, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Awesome. Great comeback guys.

  9. Soccerfan

    May 8, 2014 at 5:14 am

    It was a nice win. However, everybody keep your mouth shut about the win. If we go down to Montreal and lose 4-0 than it means absolutely nothing and we are still the last team in the NASL. We can celebrate if we get a desired result next Wednesday. Hanson is the man!! I wonder if he can play in Europe. Playing in the EPL not some weak league in Finland like Jonke. On a side note, what the hell? There was like 500 fans at the game. Does it count if nobody actually saw the win? Did FC Edmonton even promote the game? The front office should be ashamed of themselves. I thought Proudfoot was supposed to be some marketing wizard. Fath can not be happy when the stands look like that on national tv. I don’t want to hear some phoney stat about how many tickets were given out. Bottom line, 500 fans is pathetic. Dudes, in the organization need to check themselves, it seems like they prevented people from actually coming.

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