NASL & USL Archive


FCE camp update: Lousy weather, great expectations

Ritchie Jones is seen in action against Tampa Bay.

Ritchie Jones is seen in action against Tampa Bay.

Three down, one to go.

After routing Jacksonville United 6-0, losing to Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 and settling for a 0-0 draw with the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday, FC Edmonton has just one last preseason game left on its schedule.

And while no coach will confirm or deny what the starting XI will be ahead of time, there’s a feeling that Tuesday’s preseason curtain-closer against Jacksonville United might give Eddies fans a closer idea of what the lineup will look like when Colin Miller and his troops begin the NASL season April 4 in the first-ever home opener for the expansion Jacksonville Armada.

Playing against JU, a team that likely won’t be out to kick the Eddies, the team can work on the few things ahead of the season opener.

Miller, said his team is impatiently waiting the start of the regular season. This is the third week the team will be spending in Florida ahead of the season opener, after spending three weeks indoors in Edmonton.

“The guys are gong 100 miles an hour and we’re just all waiting for the season to start. We’re ready. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the teams that have been in camp for eight or ten weeks.”
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JDG’s Fury signing official just a week after he confirmed his NASL interest

deGuzman_closeThat didn’t take long.

Last Friday, at a publicity appearance at the West Edmonton Mall, Canadian national-team veteran Julian de Guzman made it public that he was looking at offers from a couple of NASL clubs. (CLICK HERE)

By the middle of this week, the Ottawa Fury hinted that the club would be making a major player-signing announcement — and that said player was a prominent Canadian.

On Friday, a week after JDG’s WEM declaration, it’s official. The Canadian midfielder will play for the Fury in 2015.

And what can we take from this? First, that the West Edmonton Mall is now a legitimate spot for sniffing out soccer scoops. Please, Canadian Soccer Association; have more events at the Mall. But it proves that, as a journalist, you never know when news will come your way. Last week, the scoop came in a store that’s maybe 100 yards from a pirate ship and less than a three-minute walk to a massive indoor waterpark.
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All access: Fury, FC Edmonton road games to be streamed on TSN GO in 2015

imagesFC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury supporters will be able to access the majority of their teams away-game broadcasts this year via TSN GO.

The North American Soccer League announced its broadcast plans for this season and, as expected, the pay-per-view NASLLive platform is gone. ESPN3 is now the base for all U.S. broadcasts save for the New York Cosmos, whose rights are held by ONE World Sports. Canadians can’t legally access ESPN3 streams, but there is a plan in place to ensure the fans on the northern side of the border can see the away games.

When the Eddies or Fury visit eight of the nine U.S. teams (minus the Cosmos), the games will be streamed on TSN GO. Cosmos games can be accessed through ONE World.
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Why we in Edmonton should see Minnesota’s move to MLS as bittersweet

10659388_10152654651984494_3033798155037099486_nBeing in Edmonton on the day that the Twin Cities officially gets the nod as the next MLS franchise is well, kinda bittersweet.

Let’s face it; the Eddies used to have a decent rivalry with Atlanta a couple of years back because the teams didn’t necessarily like each other very much. But, really, it’s hard to pinpoint who is supposed to be FCE’s rivalry team. Ottawa? No. Except when we play each other, we all kinda cheer for Ottawa because the club is committed to giving Canadians minutes on the field.

But, with the Flyover Cup — a supporter-driven initiative which sees the winner of the FCE/Loons season series get the award — it should be Minnesota who is our closest rival. But, in a weird way, the Loons are kind of like the Eddies’ best frenemy. We’re the cold-weather cities in a league filled with tropical teams; we’re united in our sense of isolation from the rest of the NASL.

And our matches against each other, well, they’ve been excellent. The interaction between supporters has been great. It won’t be forgotten that the Dark Clouds, the main support group for the Loons, raised money when they found out about the fire that devastated the town of Slave Lake, north of Edmonton, back in 2011.

I have a lot of respect for the organization; whenever they’ve come into Edmonton the team has been great to deal with. Coach Manny Lagos has always been open with our broadcast team.

So, it’s kinda like seeing a best friend get married; you are happy for the guy, but you know your relationship will change.

Minnesota United will move to MLS in 2018; and while there will no doubt be those die-hard factions of NASL supporters who will see the team’s move as some kind of betrayal, the fact is this: The Loons’ acceptance into MLS is very, very good for NASL.
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Julian de Guzman says he is considering a couple of “concrete” offers from NASL clubs

Julian de Guzman, centre, is flanked by Canadian women's national-team players Emily Zurrer and Desiree Scott at the West Edmonton Mall.

Julian de Guzman, centre, is flanked by Canadian women’s national-team players Emily Zurrer and Desiree Scott at the West Edmonton Mall.

Julian de Guzman has played in Germany and Spain; he’s been a Designated Player in Major League Soccer.

Is his next stop the North American Soccer League?

The veteran Canadian national-team midfielder, at the West Edmonton Mall Friday for the launch of the new red Canada kit, said he hopes to have a new team at the end of March. He’ll be with the Canadian national team for its upcoming Florida camp and its March 27 friendly against Guatemala and its March 30 match at Puerto Rico.

He confirmed that the “most concrete” offers he has on the table come from a couple of NASL teams. He wouldn’t name which NASL clubs have put offers forward, but he said he’s giving them some serious consideration.
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Put your money where your mouth is: Would you support a Canadian Div. 1 soccer league?

PP - Spring 2015 FINALThe latest issue of Plastic Pitch has certainly ignited a lot of Twitter debate and comments. Our look at Canada’s role in North American leagues certainly has more than a few of our readers calling for a Canadian-only first division or conference.

To get the issue: CLICK HERE for our Shopify Store
CLICK HERE for Apple
CLICK HERE for Google Play.

Last year, we heard the rumours about the North American Soccer League, the Canadian Football League and the Canadian Soccer Association discussing the formation of a domestic league or division. But, as NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson told us in Plastic Pitch #3, “It really is too early to talk about a Canadian division, but it is not something we think is out of the question. There is enough interest in Canada for pro soccer, I think it is something that could possibly work, but I don’t know when.”

Others have told me that it’s vital that a major title sponsor (think of Barclay’s and the Premiership) would need to come forward, with money that would help offset the massive travel costs. If the travel costs are mitigated, then more potential investors might come forward. But, without that big sponsor, it’s hard to get investors interested in losing the millions they’d need to lose for a decade or so as the league got off the ground. They wouldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
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Johann Smith had to keep his FC Edmonton contract a secret

Johann Smith

Johann Smith

Five years ago, after parting ways with Toronto FC, American Johann Smith was with Croatian side, HNK Rijeka.

In his first training session, the former Bolton Wanderers youth team prospect learned a lot about the importance of keeping the ball. In Croatia, far more emphasis was put on keeping the ball than in North America. He was in Croatia from 2009-10, and he said that it was there where he really grew as a played.

“It was my first day, and we did five v. two for an hour,” says Smith, the forward/left winger whose FC Edmonton deal was made official on Tuesday. “I think for 45 minutes out of that hour I was in the middle.”

The Croats emphasized keeping the ball and moving the ball. Smith always had the athleticism; growing up in Connecticut he was a high-school track phenom. And Toronto FC fans will remember him best for his blistering pace, though he didn’t score an MLS goal for the team in 14 appearances.

From Croatia, Smith went on to play in Sweden, Finland and Australia. But he always wanted to return to North America. Even though the Eddies don’t play in the United States, he continually referred to coming back “home.”
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Miller on FCE’s probable season-opening starting XI: “One or two spots up for grabs”

FC Edmonton's indoor training session have come to a close.

FC Edmonton’s indoor training session have come to a close.

FC Edmonton’s players have gone through 16 indoor sessions at the Commonwealth Fieldhouse over the last three weeks. Now, they’re ready to hit the great outdoors for the final three weeks of their NASL preseason camp.

The team finished their Edmonton part of training camp with a 70-minute scrimmage, and will depart for Florida over the weekend. The Eddies open the NASL season at Jacksonville on April 4, as the Armada makes its debut in the league.

Going into the three-week Florida portion of camp, coach Colin Miller said he has a good idea on who most of the starting XI will be on April 4.

“But there are still one or two spots up for grabs,” Miller said “And some of the guys here are making good cases for them.”
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ISSUE 5 OF PLASTIC PITCH: What is Canada getting out of participating in U.S.-based soccer leagues?

PP - Spring 2015 FINALWhen a magazine comes out, its all shiny and brand-new to the reader.

To the editor, it’s the end to a long process that takes months to come to fruition.

And, Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch, out now, represents our most pain-staking effort. This issue is a labour of love, of passion for the Canadian game — and asks questions about our Canadian identity within the game. It should easily become the most talked-about issue we’ve put out.

It’s our biggest issue ever, and all of the features relate back to a central theme: Is Canada benefitting from having teams in U.S.-based leagues? Is it the way forward, or do we need to find a new solution?

Inside, you’ll find:

• A look at a history of promises and pledges MLS has made to Canadian soccer fans, many of which we’re still waiting to see followed through;

• Paul Hamilton, David Monsalve and Shaun Saiko talk about the difficulties of being Canadian players in a North American league. You’ll read about contract offers that skirt minimum wage. You’ll read about Monsalve’s trial with the Jacksonville Armada, and how the team looked for ways to get him U.S. status so he wouldn’t count as an import. And Saiko opens up about a move from FC Edmonton to the Montreal Impact that went from being a sure thing to blowing up.
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FCE’s Jonke out to prove that 2014 was a fluke

Frank Jonke in action for FCE against the Ottawa Fury. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Frank Jonke in action for FCE against the Ottawa Fury. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

A month before the start of FC Edmonton’s training camp, Frank Jonke was awoken by a terrible pain in his gut. The Canadian striker was in agony. Not only was the pain severe, he couldn’t keep food down. By the time the NASL team’s camp opened, he was down 15 pounds.

But, the pain went away as quickly as it came. And doctors never were able to diagnose what was wrong. A virus? Food poisoning? The only thing they were able to rule out was a food allergy.

Jonke missed the first couple of days of training camp.

Jonke sees the silver lining. “Now that I lost that weight, I am quicker and lighter,” he said. And he isn’t sure if he’s going to try and put that weight back on.

Maybe the change will be good for Jonke, because he desperately wants 2015 to be the year where he proves 2014 was a fluke. Jonke arrived in Edmonton in 2014, after playing for coach Colin Miller on the Canadian national team. Jonke decided to leave Finnish football behind for the NASL, and hopes were high that the forward nicknamed “Bully” would terrify opposition centre backs.
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