Versus: FC Edmonton

FC Edmonton logoAnother home game coming up — and the Eleven will be eager to get their first win. On paper, it should be a good opportunity, as Indy will host FC Edmonton at The Mike. Edmonton are bottom of the table (behind only Indy) and only have one draw to show for their four games. But the Eddies, built on a strong defense, won’t be a cupcake.

FC Edmonton were founded in 2010 and started play with the inaugural NASL season of 2011. Their current 0-1-3 record started with a 1-1 draw at Tampa Bay, and was followed by losses to New York (0-1), Minnesota (0-1), and Fort Lauderdale (1-3). So the Eddies’ three losses represent three of the four top NASL teams. Wednesday, they won 2-1 over MLS side Montreal Impact in the ACC, so they are not a bad club by any stretch. What will Indy face on Saturday?

FC Edmonton

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Previous Seasons

FC Edmonton began play in 2011, with the first real NASL season. They have not been terribly successful so far, with finishes in the lower reaches of the table in their three seasons.

2011: 10-6-12/5th; playoffs – quarterfinals; ACC – semifinal loss to Toronto FC (0-4 agg)
2012: 5-10-13/8th; no playoffs; ACC – semifinal loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1-5 agg)
2013: 3-5-4/5th (Spring); 3-7-4/6th (Fall); ACC – semifinal loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2-5 agg)

Edmonton in 2013 were a ferociously defensive team. They only gave up 26 goals in 26 matches — best in the league, with Carolina next at 32 goals — and never gave up more than two goals in a match. That was unfortunately matched by a lack of offense. They also only scored 26 goals over the season, worst in the league. The +0 goal differential resulted in draws in 13 of their 26 matches. The Fall season was a real scoring drought for the Eddies, as they only scored two goals (never more) in two games.

Roster

Edmonton are coached by Colin Miller. Born in Scotland, Miller moved to Vancouver as a child and played as a Canadian, winning 61 caps in the 80s and 90s. He’s served in various assistant and head coaching roles, including roles with the Canadian national team. He joined Edmonton in 2012.

The best team review I’ve found is at Red Nation Online, so check it out for a more in-depth review. Key departures from last year include midfielder Chris Nurse (signed with Fort Lauderdale). Nurse leaves with a reputation; he was involved in two incidents last week in the Eddies’ match with the Strikers, including a collision in extra time that led to Sadi Jalali requiring medical assistance and leaving on a stretcher. Coach Miller responded “With [Nurse], I’m not surprised at all. He was here last year and we moved him on for a reason.” Well then. Edmonton also lost key creative midfielder Shaun Saiko, now playing in San Antonio.

The defense starts with goalkeeper John Smits, with Edmonton since 2012. Miller has adjusted his lineup a few times, but regulars include LB Lance Laing and CB (and captain) Albert Watson. (However, I believe Watson is suspended for the Indy game as he received a red card last week.) The midfield is anchored by vice-captain Nick Hlavaty and newcomer Ritchie Jones, a product of the Manchester United youth system. A second key arrival is Frank Jonke, arriving from Finnish side FF Jaro. The big striker has led the line for Edmonton so far this year. Tomi Ameobi – brother of Newcastle United players Shola and Sammy – has also seen a good bit of time in the squad.

Identity and Home Field

FC Edmonton were founded in 2010, and are one of the original NASL teams. They’re owned by brothers Tom and Dave Fath, who also own several related construction and services companies. The team’s colors are blue and white. The home kit is mostly blue – blue socks and shorts, and a blue shirt with a white yoke across the upper front. The away kit uses white socks and shirt (with blue yoke), combined with blue shorts. The supporters’ group is known, uniquely, as the Edmonton Supporters’ Group (ESG). Edmonton’s most serious rivalry is with Minnesota, with whom they contest the Flyover Cup.

The team’s name… well, it’s all right there on the label, isn’t it? FC Edmonton are also called the Eddies or the Rabbits. I haven’t seen Rabbits used much, but it’s a great story. Edmonton played several exhibition games in 2010, and at one point had lost their first three. They were playing a home match against Montreal, and were nursing a 1-0 lead when a lone rabbit took to the field, requiring a delay in play as the groundskeepers chased him off. Then he did it again in the second half! Edmonton hung on for the 1-0 win, and a mascot was born.

FC Edmonton play at Clarke Stadium, having moved there from Foote Field on the University of Aberta campus. Clarke is close to the far larger Commonwealth Stadium used by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. Clarke dates to 1938, though it was essentially rebuilt from the ground up in 2000. As with Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium, Clarke was also the home for a team in the original NASL (the Edmonton Drillers). It was expanded to a capacity of 5,000 in 2013 and had a new soccer-specific artificial surface installed this year. Last years’ attendance was a league-low 2,760 per game, but so far this year Edmonton pulled in almost 4,400 for the Cosmos game and over 3,200 for the Strikers’ visit.

Prediction!

We’ve got to win a game sometime soon… right? The Eleven certainly can’t expect to coast to a win, but this game does look promising. Edmonton haven’t mounted much of an attacking threat in the NASL so far, and their defense appears breachable.

What to make of the Eddies’ 2-1 win in stoppage time over the Impact on Wednesday? It’s an impressive victory, and should show the Eleven that we can’t take a win for granted. But the visit to Indy comes at a busy time for Edmonton, with the second leg of the ACC tie coming next Wednesday. Three games in eight days is a lot, and hopefully that’ll give Indy a leg up. I’m going to to predict a 3-1 win for Indy.

Come on you red and blue! Beat the bunnies!

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