Calgary Foothills FC advanced to the Premier Development League (PDL) final after beating Chicago FC United 1-0 in front of 1,250 fans in Okotoks Saturday night.
Ali Musse’s 57th minute goal was enough to carry Foothills FC to the 2018 PDL championship match – the club’s second PDL final in three years. And Foothills FC’s head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. had nothing but praise for his goal-scoring forward after the game.
“He’s a talented, talented boy. He likes the big occasions,” said Wheeldon. “He’s got that next-level quality in him that can win you games. And we’ve seen that last year. He’s a match winner. He’s a goal-a-game. He’s found red-hot form in the playoffs.”
Musse, a player for the big occasion
“We made a tactical change. (Musse) likes to drift in on the right, which is where he scored against the Rapids in the (Western Conference) semifinal. But it wasn’t that game, so I had to remind him that we felt that we could attack the left side and we did.”
When asked why he’s having such a great post-season, Musse suggests it’s simply a matter of sticking to his task.
“I just keep working,” said Musse. “An opportunity comes to me and I just do my best to finish them.”
“I thought we came out strong,” continued the Foothills FC forward. “We had a couple chances at the beginning we missed, that we could have scored. But we had good energy coming into this game. Everybody’s just been working all season for this. We want to win it.”
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Foothills FC began the game on the front foot and fashioned a number of half-chances in the first half. But the first 45 minutes ended goalless.
The hosts surged forward again after half time and were eventually reward with Musse’s strike with just over 30 minutes remaining. The Foothills FC forward had been released down the left side by a nicely weighted through ball by striker Moses Danto.
Chicago FC United, who won the PDL Central Conference championships after finishing second in the Heartland Division, were reduced to ten men after an altercation in the 67th minute.
From then on, Foothills FC looked the clear favourite to advance to the PDL final.
Foothills FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci has now gone 625 minutes without conceding and was largely untested during Saturday night’s match. Coach Wheeldon credited his defence for another clean sheet.
“We talk a lot about Marco Carducci, the ‘Roman Wall’, rightly so,” began Wheeldon, who’ll be taking on coaching and general manager duties with Calgary’s new CPL team, Cavalry FC, when the PDL season wraps up. “But look at the lads in front of him. That back five, if you include Elijah Adekugbe, refused to lose. They refused to give up cheap goals. These are warriors. I’ll go to war anytime with them.”
A night to remember
But Wheeldon paid tribute to the visitors effort.
“I’ve got to give credit to coach Steve of Chicago and his team. They came here with a game plan in mind. They weren’t going to give up easy goals. They sat and defended very deep.
“Credit to them. They’ve had great season as well. They made it tough for us. It wasn’t an easy game. A couple of half chances I felt we could have done better with, but that’s semifinal football is about. It’s not a blowout.”
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Wheeldon was also happy to see such a big fan turnout for Saturday’s semifinal.
“We’re always trying to build something,” said Wheeldon. “This is another night to remember because the game has grown in this city, in this town and I’m just proud of everybody that came out. They loved it. It was a great event. And now we’re off to the final.”
Calgary Foothills FC will play Reading United in the PDL championship final in Reading, Pennsylvania Saturday, August 4. Reading United beat The Villages, of Florida, 1-0 in extra-time in the other semifinal to reach the final.
“Whether it’s home or away, we’re going to do a job,” said Wheedlon. “We know they’re a good team. It’s two quality sides in the final. We’ll do our homework as of tomorrow. And we’ll take it from there.”