About Author: 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.

Posts by Steven Sandor


Eddies find baffling new ways to not score in loss to Indy

FC Edmonton's Horace James, centre, skips by Indy's Kleberson, left. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

FC Edmonton’s Horace James, centre, skips by Indy’s Kleberson, left. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

For the second week in a row, FC Edmonton faced a team that had yet to keep a clean sheet in either the NASL spring or fall seasons.

For the second week in a row, the Eddies obliged and gave the opposition its first shutout of the campaign.

Last week, it was Atlanta. On Sunday, on the first game on the pristine Clarke Stadium pitch, it was the Indy Eleven. The Eddies suffered their second 1-0 loss in a row.

And sure, the highlight shows and recaps will show the comedy of errors that led to Kleberson’s injury-time game winner. But, really, Kleberson’s 92nd-minute effort should have been a consolation goal — that’s how badly the Eleven was out chanced by the Eddies. You could argue that the Eddies created as many chances as they did in the spring season finale, when they found the net six times against Carolina.

But, as Eddies coach Colin Miller put it at halftime, the way the Eddies attackers find ways to turn chances in front of goals into shot attempts that didn’t even trouble the keeper is a “physical impossibility.”
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FCE’s Boakai and Jalali to join national U-20 side for the Milk Cup

Dale-Farm-Milk-Cup-logoFC Edmonton teenagers Hanson Boakai and Sadi Jalali will be leaving the team on Wednesday.

Why? So they can join the Canadian U-20 squad for the Milk Cup, a tournament to be held in Northern Ireland from July 27-August 1. Canada will face Mexico, China and the Irish hosts.

And, for Boakai and Jalali, it’s a chance to audition for Canadian squad going into the cycle for the 2015 U-20 World Cup qualification process. For Jalali, who scored his first career NASL goal on a penalty at the end of the spring season, it’s not a surprise to be named to the team. Much of the U-20 squad will be made up of the players who played at the U-17 World Cup in 2012 — and Jalali was a part of that team. A concussion forced him to miss the most recent U-20 national-team camp, but he was always a player you’d have thought would be in the rotation.

But, Boakai was part of the U-17 World Cup team in 2014; so he’s moving up in terms of age group. But, as arguably the best player of the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship, and a player who has already earned a trial stint at Fortuna Dusseldorf, his stock may be higher at this moment than any other youth player in this country’s system.

“I’m one of the youngest ones, it will be a new family.”
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FCE raves about new longer and wider pitch at Clarke Stadium

ClarkeTurfFor FC Edmonton’s players, there was cause for celebration, Tuesday.

After two and a half seasons of playing on the rock-hard, football-line filled turf at Clarke Stadium, the Eddies were able to train on the new FieldTurf surface for the first time.

“It’s quite nice,” said assistant coach Jeff Paulus. “It plays as close as we can get to real grass. I think it’s now the best artificial surface in the country. I can’t think of anything better.”

The installation of the $1.2 million, FIFA-approved turf at Clarke Stadium finishes two years worth of lobbying to get a surface that was free of the football lines. The lines can be painted on for junior and high-school football games played at the facility.

The new turf also allowed FC Edmonton the chance to expand the field dimensions — both length and width. The old dimensions saw the goal lines placed on the goal lines of a Canadian football field, 110 yards apart. The new field is now 115 yards long by 75 yards wide.
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Fury’s start to the NASL fall season mirrors that of FC Edmonton

Tom Heinemann: Had three great looks at goal

Tom Heinemann: Had three great looks at goal

The Ottawa Fury welcomed 14,593 fans through the gates of TD Place Sunday, setting a new attendance record for the modern NASL.

The fall-season home opener marked the first time the Fury had the chance to play in the brand-spankin’ new stadium. And, with the most recognizable team in NASL, the New York Cosmos, providing the opposition, it was a formula for a very good gate.

But, as the Fury had reportedly had 13,500 tickets sold a week ago, there wasn’t a huge push for seats in the week leading up to the game. So the question remains, how will TD Place look when the Fury hosts NASL games later in the season? The one danger of playing in large multipurpose stadiums is that even if you get a crowd of 7,000 or 8,000 — which is excellent by modern NASL standards — the stadium looks and feels kinda empty.

Despite the hype created by the day’s attendance number, the Fury finish the second week of the fall season with a ledger that looks a lot like FC Edmonton’s — one point to show for its first two games, and no goals scored.
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Atlanta gets its first NASL clean sheet of 2014… against FC Edmonton

FCE's Albert Watson tries to keep the ball away from Atlanta's Kwadwo Poku.

FCE’s Albert Watson tries to keep the ball away from Atlanta’s Kwadwo Poku.

A second-half free kick from Pablo Cruz represented the margin of the Atlanta Silverbacks’ 1-0 victory over FC Edmonton.

But, the real culprit Saturday night in Atlanta was the Eddies’ lack of inventiveness or finishing in the final third.

In last week’s 0-0 draw with the Ottawa Fury — a game which saw FCE coach Colin Miller bemoan his team’s lack of intensity — the Eddies could at least boast that they hit the woodwork a couple of times. They didn’t get that close in Atlanta.

It took until the 82nd minute for the Eddies to force Atlanta keeper Joe Nasco into a meaningful save. Just two minutes after coming in as a late sub, FCE teenager Hanson Boakai won a physical battle with Atlanta’s Kwadwo Poku at the top of the box, and then left-footed a curling shot towards the top corner that forced Nasco into a fingertip save. Yes, Nasco had to catch a couple of balls that were directed right at him earlier in the game, but the Boakai effort was the first chance that put the keeper to work.

And all this against a team that, before Saturday, could not boast keeping a clean sheet in NASL action this season.
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CSA hopeful that Women’s World Cup will spur NWSL to expand to Canada

NWSL-Logo-516x340The Canadian Soccer Association funds the salaries of 14 NWSL players this season.

But, the hope is that soon there will actually be a Canadian team in North America’s top women’s soccer circuit. Currently, the Canadian players are spread through nine U.S.-based franchises. Peter Montopoli, the Canadian Soccer Association’s General Secretary, hopes that it will change after Canada hosts the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

“Absolutely. We believe that, after 2015, the interest will be there for at least one city to be a part of NWSL,” said Montopoli. “The interest will merit it…. It certainly presents an opportunity for an owner (in Canada) to be part of NWSL. We have had those initial discussions with NWSL but we’re currently waiting to see the success of 2015 before we get there.”

Montopoli was in Edmonton Wednesday to make a presentation to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. It was interesting to note that, when he explained the CSA’s relationship with NWSL to Edmonton’s business community, he called this country a “partner” in the league, along with the U.S. and Mexican soccer federations. He did not simply say that Canada had the option to pay the salaries of up to 16 players in the league.
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Montopoli: Canada has no plans to share World Cup 2026 bid with another nation

Peter Montopoli

Peter Montopoli

The General Secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association made it clear: When Canada bids for the World Cup, it won’t have a dance partner.

Peter Montopoli was in Edmonton Wednesday, speaking to the Chamber of Commerce about the coming U-20 Women’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup in 2015. But the Canadian Soccer Association’s bid for the 2026 World Cup, which is expected to go to FIFA some time in 2016, also came up.

And, when he was asked about the possibility of submitting a shared bid, Montopoli said the answer is no.

“It’s a single bid. It’s Canada, at this moment. It’s Canada, the Canadian Soccer Association that will be bidding, and we will continue along that line. There really have been no discussions on joint bids, either Mexico or the United States. It’s not a position we’re taking. It is a straight bid from the Canadian Soccer Association.”

Montopoli said that getting the 2026 World Cup would complete a journey that began in Edmonton in 2002, when 45,000 fans attended the final of the then-named U-19 Women’s World Championship, a predecessor of the U-20 Women’s World Cup. FIFA officials were startled by the Canadian suppot for women’s youth soccer, and that final put Canada on the road to hosting the U-20 World Cup in 2007, then the U-20 Women’s World Cup this year and the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
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Beckie’s move from American program to Canadian program highlights U-20 roster

Janine Beckie

Janine Beckie

Over the past two NCAA seasons, Janine Beckie has scored at a torrid pace for Texas Tech.

Now, her addition to the Canadian team ahead of the U-20 Women’s World Cup provides coach Andrew Olivieri with an interesting trump card.

Beckie’s name was on the team roster for the U-20 Women’s World Cup, which was announced Wednesday morning. And Beckie, a former member of the American youth program who joined the Canadian system earlier this year, was on it.

And, yes, before you even need to ask — she is the sister of defender Drew Beckie, the current Ottawa Fury member who played with Canada’s U-23s in qualifying games for the 2012 World Cup. In fact, U-20 Women’s Team coach Andrew Olivieri said that Drew’s input was key in helping his sister decide to play for Canada.
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Garber hints that Canadian-player rules in MLS may change: Why we need to look at minutes played, not roster spots

Don Garber

Don Garber

In a Facebook chat with fans held on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was greeted with the thorny question about Canadian players in the league.

Francis Ghanimé asked him: “Will Canadian players ever stop counting as internationals for American clubs?”

And this was the answer from the commish.

“We are working on a new approach to our international player rules as they relate to Canada. Stay tuned.”

We have asked MLS for more clarification on the issue.

But, we do know the rules as they pertain to Canadians are on the radar. We also know the Canadian Soccer Association has lobbied MLS to changes the rules so Canadians are seen as domestic players, league wide. This would then put MLS on an equal footing with USL-PRO, which allows Canadians to be domestics on U.S. clubs.

Right now, the Canadian teams are required to each carry three Canadian players on their rosters. On the U.S. teams, Canadians are counted as international players and take up roster space that many American teams would prefer to give to players from, well, sexier parts of the soccer world. Meanwhile, on Canadian teams, Americans are seen as domestics.

The timing is interesting. We know CSA has been pushing for changes for a while. But, now, the CSA has gone public with its stated goal of having Canada’s own “Division 1A” (CLICK HERE or see issue 2 of Plastic Pitch), and reports continue that NASL, CFL owners and the CSA are discussing the formation of a Canadian division — something that NASL won’t deny, but says it simply can’t comment on… at this time.

So, pressure is no doubt building on MLS.
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FC Edmonton likely to boost number of Fort McMurray “home” games in 2015

fort-mcmurray-aerial-twoFC Edmonton announced earlier this year that it would be playing an NASL match in Fort McMurray in the 2015 season.

Now, the team says that it’s likely that two or three league games will be played in Canada’s oil-sands territory next season.

Because Edmonton hosts more games than any other city at next year’s Women’s World Cup, Clarke Stadium won’t be available for six weeks, through June and into the first week of July. Clarke Stadium is adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium, and wouldn’t be available when FIFA takes over the site.

The number of games FCE would play in Fort Mac would depend on when the NASL schedules its break between the spring and fall seasons. But, as of right now, the team has indicated that it looks like at least two dates in June could go to Fort Mac. That could go as high as three.
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