NASL Season Preview: FC Edmonton

The Canadian club tries its best to climb out of the NASL cellar
by Daniel Casey   |   Friday, March 29, 2013

FC Edmonton

There is one major pressing question for FC Edmonton this year: Where will the goals come from?

Edmonton scored the fewest goals in the league last season with 25. Gone is forward Kyle Porter and his 5 goals to DC United, and Yashir Pinto’s 3 goals and 2 assists are gone now that the Chilean’s loan is well over.

With these two absent, the only familiar forward the Eddies have is second-year man Michael Cox, who last year scored 2 goals and an assist in 919 minutes. Although North Irishman Daryl Fordyce will also likely factor in the discussion of the primary striker tandem and is experienced in Ireland, he is an unknown quantity. Once again the brunt of the offense will fall on the shoulders of midfielder Shaun Saiko.

Saiko will most likely be paired with former Minnesota defensive midfielder Neil Hlavaty and the two buttressed with NASL journeyman Chris Nurse, who has finally broken out of his own Puerto Rico/Carolina feedback loop. Massimo Mirabelli is a talented youngster who can play out wide and as a forward, so he will certainly play a key part in Edmonton’s attack. Edmonton needs to provide service in order to score goals and can’t rely upon a midfield-scorer-by-committee strategy if they hope to climb out of the cellar.

Helping this along will be a defense that sees new faces but is less questionable in its quality than last season. Yet Edmonton’s backline is still a bit of a hodge-podge. Centerback/defensive midfielder Wes Knight has joined from San Antonio Scorpions, former Ft. Lauderdale Strikers star leftback Lance Laing has signed, and Edson Edward, who can play either right or left back, has come north from on-hiatus Puerto Rico Islanders. 

I am concerned that although Edmonton has shored up its weakness at fullback, it has created a bit of confusion. Laing starts for certain but is rightback David Proctor now out of a job thanks to Edward? Will Proctor be pushed up to midfield? I’ve never been an advocate of pushing a fullback up or pulling a wide midfielder back, doing so always leads to mediocrity.

Caryle Mitchell, a young centerback, is on a season-long loan from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps and it looks like centerback top prospect Mallan Roberts will be a regular presence in the defense. If Roberts starts regularly, who will partner with him? Antonio Rago has put in the time with Edmonton and Knight certainly has the quality. I can temper my concern with the idea that Edmonton has provided itself with invaluable league experience, depth and positional flexibility.

Now that longtime captain Chris Kooy has been released along with regular starting centerback Paul Hamilton, having these journeymen players with deep NASL experience will be a boon. But doubts persist. Who will take charge of this team on the field?

New captain Albert Watson looks to be injured for the season. Now is the time for a franchise player like Saiko, a star like Laing or field marshals like Hlavety or Knight, to step up. Especially given just how young Edmonton is and will continue to be.

There are holes all over the Eddies roster and it looks like they’ll be filled by youth, Canadian youth at that. Edmonton prides itself as being the factory for Canadian youth talent. And it should. No other Canadian team has shown a more dedicated investment in and development of national talent. This commitment has left Edmonton a bit behind the pack in terms of success.

Unfortunately, a team focused on youth means it’s a team where there are a lot of baby faces and baby fat as well as a gross mix of barely post-adolescent fragile and hyper-inflated egos. The long-view has its flaws just as much as the panicked scrum for immediate does.

The end of last season and this offseason has seen major changes in the FC Edmonton organization. New manager Colin Miller has deep roots within Canadian football and his ability to develop young players will certainly be under the microscope with Edmonton.

Miller has certainly put his stamp on the team and while not making huge waves, he has made it clear that either you’re on-board with is his plan and meet his standard of quality or you’re out (i.e., departures of defender Paul Hamilton, Chris Kooy, and Kenny Caceros). None of this seems to be done with animosity but rather a clear-headed pragmatism.

The same is true for the changes in the front office. A new General Manager Rod Proudfoot seems to have come in to right the ship financially (getting salaries under control, improving the promotion and presentation of the FC Edmonton product). A sure hand on the wheel is necessary if Edmonton hopes to build a proper stadium for itself (mock up below).

FC Edmonton Stadium

Edmonton’s current home, Clark Field, will be expanded from 1,300 to 4,000 seats by the beginning of May. But there are plans for a stadium to be built to Edmonton’s needs (8,000-10,000 seats) for under $40 million. In a world where stadium porn generates buzz, Edmonton’s sensibility is admirable and perhaps the most realistic and stable path we’ve yet seen in pro soccer in North America.

Edmonton is not a flashy team. It will never be a team of high drama, and rather it’s a team that never stops working, never ceasing to improve itself. It may take a few games for FC Edmonton to get into a groove, but I certainly think that the Eddies will be much better than they were last season.

Predicted starting XI

Lance Parker; Lance Laing, Mallan Roberts, Wes Knight, Eddie Edward; Shaun Saiko, Neil Hlavaty, Chris Nurse, Massimo Mirabelli; Michael Cox, Daryl Fordyce

Daniel CASEY

Nationality:
USA
College:
Carthage College Univ. of Notre Dame
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire & Minnesota Stars
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Founder/editor of the literary magazine Gently Read Literature, active but barely read poet and literary critic, and an occasional English professor. Never got to play soccer until his mid-30s, so he is routinely schooled by U10 crowd at pick-up games.
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