FC Edmonton ready for another physical tilt with San Antonio

Fabrice Lassonde

FC Edmonton doesn’t yet have an idea of what kind of team the San Antonio Scorpions will send to Clarke Stadium for Sunday’s NASL tilt. But the Eddies do expect another tight, physical match.

Last week, in a game that saw some meaty tackles and a few pushing and shoving matches, San Antonio triumphed 2-0 in the cozy confines of Heroes Stadium, on a tiny pitch that’s 14 yards narrower than the surface at Clarke.

But that San Antonio team might bear no resemblance to the team that Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson brings to Edmonton this weekend. Why? The Scorpions host a U.S. Open Cup match against the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday night. And, for such a big game, Hankinson wouldn’t be blamed for resting big guns — like striker Pablo Campos, Canadian midfielder Kevin Harmse or defender Aaron Pitchkolan — on Sunday in order to keep them fresh for the Dynamo.

But FC Edmonton players don’t care who will be on the pitch. They expect the Scorpions to play the same way they do at home: Defend deep and play for the counter.

“They definitely like to play physical,” said central defender Paul Hamilton, who was forced to leave last Saturday’s match with a bruised hip but said he is good to go. “We are really expecting them to drop off. That’s the style they use on their field, and they can do it because their field is so narrow.”

Fabrice Lassonde, who has missed the last couple of weeks with a groin problem, is champing at the bit — ready to return to his fullback role. On Friday, he scrimmaged with the regular starters, as did striker Paul Craig.

“It was frustrating to be out,” said Lassonde. “Especially to miss the Vancouver game, in Vancouver, that was tough.”

And, as for San Antonio, he said that by keeping the ball on the ground, FCE can utilize its wider pitch and force the Scorpions away from their strength — winning physical battles and winning balls in the air.

“We saw their shape, they are definitely compact, they drop off a lot,” said Lassonde. “For us, we need to keep possession of the ball, work it along the ground and, when we get our chances, to make the most out of them.”

As for the goalkeepers, John Smits and Lance Parker were out with the first team, while David Monsalve and Michal Misiewicz will play for the reserves Friday and Saturday against the Calgary Callies.

The game is being called a sellout — that is, all of the 1,200 seats in the main stands are spoken for. But, the team is still selling standing room tickets, and there is plenty of room on the grounds for spectators.

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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.