NASL & USL Archive

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The three games that ruined FCE’s chances for a post-season spot

Oct. 4: TB vs FCE, one of the games that killed the Eddies this season

Oct. 4: TB vs FCE, one of the games that killed the Eddies this season

When the team you support is eliminated from the post-season picture, it’s normal to look back on the season and obsess about that game where your side was robbed by the ref or that match where your team hit three posts and a crossbar.

After FC Edmonton was eliminated from NASL post-season contention last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, it would be hard to blame an Eddies supporter for not obsessing over the games where points were dropped.

In the end, that supporter should come to the logical conclusion that the Eddies could have easily gone into that game with Fort Lauderdale with an NASL post-season slot already salted away. I’ll look at three games that should have been wins for the Eddies — instead, they only got two points from those matches.
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3

FC Edmonton’s post-season hopes die in Fort Lauderdale

FC Edmonton's Tomi Ameobi, left, challenges Fort Lauderdale's Darnell King.

FC Edmonton’s Tomi Ameobi, left, challenges Fort Lauderdale’s Darnell King.

Soccer can be such a cruel game. A hero can be transformed into a scapegoat with just one kick of the ball.

For 83 minutes, Eddies keeper John Smits was the best player on the field in Fort Lauderdale; in a game that the Eddies had to win, Smits made a series of wonderful saves to keep the score at 0-0.

But, in minute 84, the dream game turned into a nightmare. With one very poor touch, the Eddies’ keeper set up the goal that put an end to FCE’s push for a post-season spot. The Strikers got a 1-0 win, which puts the Eddies four points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the overall standings — with just one game left.

Strikers’ forward Fafa Picault got a head to an attempted chipped pass from FCE winger Lance Laing; Smits had to come out of his area to collect it. He hit the ball first-time, and the panicked clearance went right to Pecka. The Strikers’ midfielder chipped the ball over Smits and into the vacated Eddies’ goal.
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3

Laing: “Wouldn’t be a greater joy” than helping FCE beat the Strikers on Saturday

Lance Laing

Lance Laing

A month and a half ago, the FC Edmonton staff discussed their plans for the final road trip of the regular season. If results continued to go in favour of the red-hot Eddies, there was a good chance that the Oct. 25 match at Fort Lauderdale could be huge.

So the decision was made then to change the team’s travel plans. Instead of leaving on a Friday, the common practice for a Saturday road game, the Eddies would leave on Thursday, giving them a chance to better acclimate to the Florida heat and humidity.

As it turns out, the Eddies were right about this Saturday’s game meaning something. The Eddies know that if they win their final two games of the season — away to the Strikers and then home to Atlanta — they will be in the NASL post-season, unless Carolina also wins both of their remaining games and makes up a massive goal-difference margin.

“We made this call five weeks ago, six weeks ago, anticipating we’d be in this position,” said assistant coach Jeff Paulus on Wednesday. “It’s paid off for us.”

But, if the Eddies lose to Fort Lauderdale, the Strikers will eliminate FCE, and solidify their own claim for the fourth and final NASL post-season spot.
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3

Laing scores directly off corner, adds assist as Eddies beat Ottawa

Lance Laing is mobbed by his FCE teammates after scoring directly off a corner kick.

Lance Laing is mobbed by his FCE teammates after scoring directly off a corner kick.

In the middle of the week, Lance Laing signed a contract extension that will keep him in Eddies blue and white into the 2015 season. And, on Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital, he once again showed off why he’s become such a valuable part of the team.

In the first 21 minutes of a must-win match against the Ottawa Fury, Laing set up Chad Burt’s opening goal and then scored directly off a corner kick. An assist and a goal, and the Eddies defended the fort for the remainder of the game. The final — 2-0 to FC Edmonton, and it puts the Eddies just one point back of fourth spot in the NASL overall standings.

Carolina, now one point behind the Eddies, faces the Strikers, who are a point ahead of the Eddies in the race for the final playoff spot, later Saturday. The best scenario for FCE is that the Strikers and RailHawks play to a draw. Because of a massive goal-difference advantage, the Eddies will almost certainly take any tiebreakers with Fort Lauderdale or Carolina. If the two rivals draw, the Eddies will be in control of their playoff destiny; that’s because the Eddies face Fort Lauderdale in Florida next week and then host Atlanta on what will likely be a cold November afternoon at Clarke Stadium.

But, for now, the Eddies can be comfortable in the knowledge that they have done their job by putting all of the pressure on their rivals for the playoff spot.

“I am so very proud of the guys,” Miller said after the game. (It was hard to hear him over the phone because of the FCE players who were singing in the dressing room.) “I actually think we could have scored two or three more. We started off the game with a bit of a wobble but then we started to play. I don’t think we allowed them a shot until the 46th minute.
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6

Teenage goalkeeper Kaiswatum promoted from academy to FCE roster

Christian Kaiswatum

Christian Kaiswatum

For the last several weeks, teenage goalkeeper Christian Kaiswatum had to keep a secret.

He knew that he was going to get promoted from the academy to the senior squad, but he just wasn’t quite sure when it would happen. And, he was surprised when the Eddies added him as a professional keeper right before the Oct. 6 NASL roster freeze. But, the deal wasn’t announced publicly, so Kaiswatum had to remain quiet.

Until Thursday, that is. The Eddies publicized the Kaiswatum deal; that the 1997-born keeper joins John Smits, Lance Parker and Tyson Farago in the rotation.

“I was a little surprised (about the deal),” said Kaiswatum. “They told me a couple of weeks in advance but I wasn’t expecting (to sign) so soon. I was expecting it later on.”
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1

Eddies extend Laing, Ameobi; release Milton Blanco

Lance Laing PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Lance Laing PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

If you had to pinpoint the turning point of FC Edmonton’s season, you should go back to the final game of the spring season. As an experiment, coach Colin Miller moved Lance Laing from left back to the left side of midfield.

Since then, Laing has no doubt been Edmonton’s most valuable player, and has entrenched himself as the best left-sided player in NASL. The Jamaican has six goals and five assists, and has tormented opposing fullbacks with his speed.

And Laing is guaranteed to return next season. The Eddies announced Tuesday that it had inked Laing and striker Tomi Ameobi — who both take up international slots on the roster — to contract extensions. Terms of the contracts were not released.

Ameobi scored his fifth goal of the season in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Carolina, which put the Eddies just four points back of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NASL with three games left to go — including what will be a do-or-die showdown two weeks from now in south Florida.
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5

How Leiweke’s successor can deal with TFC’s culture of failure

new-toronto-fc-jersey-2014
“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again”

— The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

It’s becoming part of the club’s not-so-wonderful lore; that when Toronto FC does have a reason for hope, the dreams will die in New Jersey.

Heck, TFC has been buried in Jersey so often, that Jimmy Hoffa FC might be an appropriate rebrand for the franchise.

In 2009, TFC went to Giants Stadium needing a win to get to the promised land — and gave up five goals to a hapless Red Bulls team. The Red Bulls are a much better team in 2014 than 2009; that still doesn’t mitigate how poor TFC was in the first half of the 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls on Saturday. Now, TFC’s playoff hopes hang by a thread and, psychologically, the fan base has given up on the team.

With Tim Leiweke set to leave his post as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s head, it gives food for thought; what to do now with TFC? What would you do if you were president of the club?
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1

Eddies continue their domination of Carolina with three-goal win

FCE's Tomi Ameobi (centre) gets set to celebrate as the ball slides by Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

FCE’s Tomi Ameobi (centre) gets set to celebrate as the ball slides by Carolina keeper Akira Fitzgerald. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

For the last week, FC Edmonton defender Mallan Roberts has been in a competition with Lance Laing. As the team worked on finishing in training, Roberts wanted to show Laing that he could score more goals than him.

Roberts came into Sunday’s game with Carolina with one career goal; he scored his second just five minutes into the match, and it spurred the Eddies to a 3-0 win at Clarke Stadium. The win puts the Eddies just four points behind Fort Lauderdale for fourth spot (and the final post-season spot) in the NASL overall standings.

“I’ve been working on my finishing all week,” said Roberts with a wide smile on his face after the game. “I have to give credit to Lance Laing. He’s always saying that I can’t finish. So, we had a competition in training to see who could finish more. I won in training and I think that I won again today.”

After Neil Hlavaty took a free kick, the ball bounded around in the penalty area and Roberts corralled it. He shook off one Carolina defender, then poked the ball past another defender. He then slotted a shot inside the far post. It was a finish taken with the composure of a veteran striker, not a young centre back.
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5

Will Eddies feast on roasted RailHawk this Thanksgiving weekend?

Lance Laing feasted on the RailHawks the last time the  two teams met in Edmonton. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Lance Laing feasted on the RailHawks the last time the two teams met in Edmonton. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

It feels kinda fitting that, on the Thanksgiving long weekend, the Carolina RailHawks will be visiting Clarke Stadium.

That’s because FC Edmonton has feasted on roasted RailHawk, with a side of potatoes, so far this season. In two previous meetings, the Eddies have got all six available points, and scored a total of, gulp, nine goals. The Eddies scored six on the RailHawks the last time they came to Clarke Stadium.

So, the key on Sunday is to forget all of that. The Eddies certainly won’t be expecting another six-goal eruption against a Carolina team that has made several signings during the fall season that have been designed to make it tougher to play against. This past week, the RailHawks signed former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Alex Martinez.

“We don’t look at past wins or past matches, to be honest,” said Eddies captain Albert Watson. “We’re just taking every match as it comes. Look at the last game against Tampa (a 1-1 draw), we should have won the game. It was a diabolical call by the referee (which gave the Rowdies the equalizer on a penalty kick) and I’ve looked at it again a bunch of times and I still don’t know what he’s called there. That’s the way it’s gone for us this year and we have to get on with it.

“So, we’re not going to look past games. We know Carolina has added strong, strong to their squad over the last six weeks. It seems like they’ve added a player every week. They’re going to be a tough team to play against on Sunday.”
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5

Unkel’s controversial call, Pickens’s great saves deny FCE a win in Tampa

Tampa Bay's Blake Wagner, left, tries to shield the ball from FCE's Eddie Edward.

Tampa Bay’s Blake Wagner, left, tries to shield the ball from FCE’s Eddie Edward.

The Eddies played well enough to leave Tampa with three points and new life in their chase for a post-season spot.

But, a controversial decision from referee Ted Unkel and some very good late stops from Tampa Bay Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens forced FC Edmonton to settle for a 1-1 draw with the Rowdies. Frankly, at this stage of the season, that result doesn’t do much good for either team.

The Eddies entered the second half with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Chad Burt. And, for the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Eddies were able to slow down the game. At halftime, FCE coach Colin Miller said the Eddies weren’t there to entertain the fans in Tampa, they were there to get the job done. And it was so far, so good — the Eddies were able to control the pace of the game down on a choppy surface.

And, then, it all changed with one blow of a whistle. Unkel blew a play dead after a cross went into the FCE area. A few players had gone down in the scrum. The Rowdies players went to complain, as they were sure the foul was being called on them. But Unkel, instead, pointed to the spot, claiming that FCE defender Kareem Moses had impeded the Rowdies’ Keith Savage.

Georgi Hristov buried the penalty kick.

To add insult to injury, Moses had to leave the game shortly after — Miller said he suspects that the fullback has a broken rib; but that’s not confirmed by a medical official. Moses will get X-rays to determine the extent of the injury.
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