FC Edmonton needs better finishing if it is to upset Fort Lauderdale

Michael Cox

FC Edmonton hopes to learn from its mistakes when it faces the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in their NASL quarter-final on Saturday.

The last time the Eddies faced the Strikers, they lost 2-1 at Foote Field, despite dominating the match in terms of territory and possession. Had the Eddies won that match, this weekend’s playoff game would be held in Alberta, not South Florida. FCE lost the match because it missed a slew of chances to bury Fort Lauderdale. Throughout the match, the Strikers struggled on set pieces, and it led to a series of great chances that the home team kept heading off target. Then, late in the game, FCE conceded an own goal and then a late winner to Brian Shriver, who fell over the ball as he rounded keeper Rein Baart but still got enough to get it over the goal line.

But, the fact FCE had most of the play gives the team confidence before 18 players and staff jump on a plane to Toronto at late Wednesday night, in order to connect with a flight to south Florida Thursday morning.

“We are confident, we played well against them in the past,” said Michael Cox, the teenage striker who will likely be the target man as FCE will rain in crosses against a Fort Lauderdale backline that struggles in the air. “Even though we lost that last game to them here, it was one of our best efforts at home in a while.

“We knew that we dominated that game. So, if we get the chances, we have to be 100 per cent sure… I know that I will do whatever I can to be in the right place at the right time.”

Midfielder Shaun Saiko led the FCE scoring chart in 2011; and one of his favourite strikes was a rocket from well outside the box in the season opener in Fort Lauderdale, a game that FCE won 2-1.

“For me, this game is a chance to back where we started, to get a win and get that successful feeling back again. We won our first game there, maybe we can win our first playoff game there, too.”

But, like Cox, Saiko said it will all come down to Edmonton converting its chances. If the Eddies get the same amount of scoring opportunities as it did three weeks ago at home — and only comes out with one goal, they will once again leave themselves open to losing the game on a mental lapse or two, or a fluke goal.

“We have got to put our chances away,” said Saiko. “It all comes down to concentration. We know that when we play them, that we will get our chances. And we know that, defensively, we can keep them at bay.”

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.