Calgary Foothills FC won the Premier Development League (PDL) championship with a 4-2 victory over Reading United in the PDL playoff final in Pennsylvania Saturday.
Nico Pasquotti and Ali Musse scored goals deep in extra-time to earn Foothills FC the PDL title, after normal time finished 2-2.
The 2,278 fans at Gurski Stadium Saturday night witnessed what will likely go down as a modern-day classic that had everything. There were six goals, two red cards, extra time and the lead changed hands three times.
This was Foothills FC’s second trip to the PDL championship game in three years. They fell at the final hurdle in 2016, losing to the Michigan Bucks in the final. But Foothills FC’s head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr, who was the coach in 2016 too, was overjoyed to see his side cross the finish line this time.
“It feels great to be champion,” said Foothills FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. following the match. “Couldn’t be prouder of the boys. Showed their character. It was a tough test, being at Reading who were undefeated in their home ground and very humid.”
“Ali Musse was exceptional again. Two goals – clutch. Dominick Zator, he scores big goals. He scored the winner in the Western Conference Final in 2016. And Nico Pasquotti’s goal is outrageous. The boys were good. They controlled the game after the first half.”
Foothills FC start on the front foot
Calgary Foothills FC began the match strongly, employing their trademark high-press.
They were rewarded early for their positive play when Ali Musse was fouled deep in the Reading half. Musse gave the visitors the lead when he stepped up himself to crash the resulting free kick into the top corner of Bennet Strutz’s goal from 30 yards.
Foothills FC continued to pressure their hosts but were unable find a second goal. And Reading eventually pulled themselves level when Aaron Molloy scored a free kick on the last kick of the second half. The goal was the first conceded by Calgary in six matches. The first half ended 1-1.
Reading United, PDL Eastern Conference and Mid Atlantic Division champions, took the lead in the 78th minute on a header by Kieran Roberts. But shortly after, the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 80th when Kamal Miller was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
And Calgary Foothills FC quickly took advantage of the numerical advantage when Dominick Zator scored an equalizer from outside the box in the 84th minute.
Foothills FC were themselves reduced to 10 men when Chris Serban was shown a straight red card for a sliding tackle from behind in the 96th minute. The referee soon after blew the full-time whistle, sending the match to extra-time with the score 2-2.
The first half of extra-time was goalless. Foothills FC did have a decent shout for a penalty late in the first-half when Dean Northover was possibly sent tumbling by a Reading United tackle in the box. But the referee waived play on.
Foothills FC carried most of the play in the second half of extra-time and were worthy of Pasquotti’s and Musse’s late goals in the 119th and 123rd minutes
“Eight months we’ve prepared for this match and I’m so excited to celebrate this with the boys,” said Foothills FC captain Dominick Zator. “Everyone fought so hard in today’s game. To come back after (being) 2-1 down in the 80th minute is just phenomenal.”
“I only score big goals I guess,” joked Zator, when asked about his late equalizer that sent the game to extra-time. “I had to do something to make sure we stayed in the game so I did anything I could. And fortunately it went in the net. And the team just carried us forward. I’m just extremely proud of the boys.”
Cavalry FC and CPL up next for Wheeldon
Once the dust settles and the celebrating is over coach Wheeldon will take up coaching and general manager duties for Cavalry FC, Calgary’s new professional soccer team in the Canadian Premier League 2019. He hopes to take some of Foothills FC’s current squad along with him but also expects to see a few of them dotted around the new league in other teams.
“It’s a pivotal moment for me, this is my final PDL game with the club,” said Wheeldon. “It’s made a lot of special memories. But we’ve done it to build a pathway. We’ve shown Canadian’s can play and we’ve shown we can do it with local players.”
“And the boys deserve all the credit the get because they’re exceptional. And this bodes well for the future of Canadian soccer.”