FC Edmonton take on Pacific FC this coming Sunday at Clarke Field in what will mark their first-ever home match in the Canadian Premier League (CPL).
The match on Sunday marks many firsts for both the coaches and players. A lot of players will play their first home-game at Clarke Field, some will make their professional debut on Sunday, and some will make their FC Edmonton debut. It also marks the first time Edmonton fans will get to see the re-branded Edmonton team play live.
The fixture list has favoured Edmonton early on, in the sense that they get to play one-match a week, while other teams are having to play two matches. Their opening match of the season saw them play Valour FC who had played three days before their tie with the Eddies. And now they play Pacific FC, who are coming off a 3-0 loss to Forge FC on Wednesday. Now, Pacific will have to make the cross-country journey to Edmonton, which bodes well for the Eddies.
“We’ve got the opportunity where we can play once, train for a week then play again,” Paulus said. “We have that for the first three or four games. I am more of a believer that players have to create that non-verbal communication and you only get that when players play a few times in a row. You’ll see that here for the first little bit, there will be some squad rotation, but limited.”
With three points already secured, the Eddies will be hoping to secure three more. As Steven Sandor mentioned, all it took in the NASL spring season was approximately 18-20 points to clinch the Spring Season. A win on Sunday would mean they’ve earned 33 percent of the 18-point tally. It almost makes it a must-win match already.
“We need to take advantage of [our schedule],” Paulus added. “Because if we can get ourselves to be on top of the pile with fives games to go, then we are in a good position. So we are going to do our best to win this 10-game sprint.”
Typically in the past, Edmonton has been a tough place for teams to visit. Mainly because in the NASL, travelling to Edmonton was a disaster. On top of that, the weather tends to get worse on game days and under former head-coach Colin Miller, the Eddies played a hard-working, defensive style of soccer.
“There are certain elements of the Colin Miller culture that we have to retain here,” Paulus said. “We do have to graft and be hard to play against. I want us to be that team that other teams worry about because they know it’s going to be 90-minutes of a physical battle. I want it to be a blend of that and of who I am as a manager. I want to play on the front-foot, and we want to keep possession of the ball.
The biggest challenge might be their own emotions. With all the local connections to this entire club, there will be a lot of family and friends in the stands. It might be the first time a lot of these players get to play in front of their loved ones and they’ll have to keep their cool.
“There will be some nerves there but as a pro you have to know how to deal with that,” Edwini-Bonsu said. “You have to be calm and collective and play your game. You have to work for your teammates and if your chance comes, take it. That’s things us local players have to understand, because when friends and family come you want to impress them of course, but if you do too much then you’ll have a bad game. At the end of the day, we are here playing football. We need to tune everything else out and just play our game.”
Pacific will want to make up for their poor showing in Hamilton. The visiting side play a possession based game and have midfielders and defenders who are comfortable on the ball. They tend to try and play through the middle, before spraying the ball out wide for the likes of Ben Fisk to create some magic. However, they’ve been guilty at times of relying on service from wide areas too much. We saw that against Valour FC in particular and based on Edmonton’s last performance, they seemed pretty comfortable defending crosses into the box.
Players to Watch
Randy Edwini-Bonsu: Sunday marks his first time playing in Edmonton in front of his family since representing Canada in 2013. He hasn’t played in Edmonton since he was about 15-years-old prior to that, so he will want to leave his mark on this game. He has a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove. I think we could a multi-goal performance from the Eddies forward
Ben Fisk: The former FC Edmonton winger was highly-regarded within the Edmonton fanbase. Fans and his opponents are used to seeing what he is capable of. He is a creative winger that can play on both wings. He is comfortable in possession and has an eye for a pass. Fisk isn’t shy to go for a goal and has a reputation of being an assist-maker.
FC Edmonton: James; Moses, Temguia, Didic, Zebie; Soria, Marcelin, Phillip; Esua, Diouck, Edwini-Bonsu
Pacific FC: Village; Smith, Starostzik, MacNaughton, Chung; Fisk, Baldisimo, Verhoeven, Blasco; Hernandez, Nakajima-Farran