FCE coach Miller hopes the wintry forecasts for Rowdies match are on the mark

The last time the Rowdies visited Clarke Stadium, it was a nice warm day. That won't be the case Sunday.

The last time the Rowdies visited Clarke Stadium, it was a nice warm day. That won’t be the case Sunday.

The weather forecasts are calling for some rather inhospitable conditions for FC Edmonton’s final home game of the season.

And, for FCE coach Colin Miller, the lower the mercury, the better it is.

“Any coach in the world will take any advantage, within the rules of the game, to help his team win a game,” said Miller after FCE training on Thursday. “The problem is we’re always so hospitable in Canada. Things should go in a different way, we should make things as difficult for visiting teams as possible. When Canada is playing teams from Central America, we should be playing in the coldest conditions possible.”

The opposition won’t come from Central America, but in the form of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Other than Canadian defender Andres Arango, this is not a team with a lot of experience with winter conditions north of the border. And, while Edmonton has been eliminated from the NASL fall-season race, the Rowdies could still be alive if the Cosmos don’t get maximum points from its game against San Antonio Saturday. Right now, the gap is five points with two games to play.

Here are what the major forecasters are calling for Sunday…
Environment Canada: A high of 2C (before wind chill), low of -9C, with snow/rain.
Weather Network: High of 4C, low of -5C, 70 per cent chance of light snow
Accuweather: High of 3C, low of -11C, icy, snowy conditions with accumulation.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Environment Canada has just updated its forecast and has now issued a winter-weather warning for Sunday. It reads “Winter weather conditions moving in early Sunday morning” and suggests snow will begin Sunday morning, with accumulation of between five and 10 cm.

(By the way, Canadian women’s team coach John Herdman and his charges will likely have to train in subzero conditions on the days preceding the Oct. 30 friendly against South Korea, even though it isn’t expected to be quite as cold on the matchday).

FC Edmonton will have an optic yellow matchball on hand if the snow is flying.

And, even with the dire forecasts, a big crowd is expected. Miller said 3,800 advance tickets have been sold, which would make the season finale the biggest gate of the season.

FC Edmonton’s attendance has gone up in September, and it could see its biggest crowd for a game in late October. Edmonton fans are proving that warm weather isn’t what influences their decisions whether to come to matches or not. FCE is getting better gates now than it did in June or August.

So this begs the question. If FCE can draw in cold weather, should NASL abandon the practice of having the team begin the season on an extended road trip, as it has for the past two seasons? If home games work in cold weather in October, the same could be true of games in March.

As Miller pointed out, FCE having games in snowy conditions is an equalizer for when the team has to go places like Florida or Cary, N.C. or San Antonio in June or August.

“We’ve had to play in 100-degree temperatures, and it’s draining,” said Miller.

If FCE can’t play home games in cold-weather March, by the same token of fairness, should San Antonio not be prohibited from playing home games in August? If the southern teams can use the weather to their advantage, shouldn’t it also be true of the northern teams?

Miller isn’t opposed to playing at Clarke in March, but there are some caveats. He pointed out that, in the United Kingdom, cold-weather games are often postponed not because of the playing conditions, but because its dangerous for fans to get to and from the stadiums.

But it should also be pointed out that Albertans are pretty experienced when it comes to winter driving.

As well, Miller said that, because winter forces the club to begin its training camp indoors, March home games might be too early.

“We may not have a chance to train outside in Edmonton before those first games. We’re already planning for training camp next season, and we have a fabulous facility in the Commonwealth Fieldhouse, where we’ll be on February 15th. But, to get 11 v 11 games, we’ll need to either head west or south, and it’s not ideal for us.”

FCE striker Daryl Fordyce played in snowy conditions in Northern Ireland, and said the fields would often not be cleared. The snow would pack down, become icy, and give a large advantage to the strikers.

“You can go at the defenders, they can’t keep up,” he said.

He remembers a match when he was with Glentoran and FCE teammate Robert Garrett was at Linfield. Snow had fallen, and it was a bright sunny day. But the way the stands shielded the sun from the pitch, half of the field was in sun, the other half was in shadow. So, the sunny side had a playable, grassy field, while the shadowed side had snow that turned to ice. The goals all came on the snowy side, as defenders couldn’t turn to deal with the forwards.

David Proctor, the Scottish defender who scored the equalizer in last week’s draw against the Cosmos, has played in the snow a couple of times before.

“You get the bright orange ball, and you have to deal with it,” he said,

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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.