NASL & USL Archive

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Fort Mac games means Eddies will spend much of the summer outside of Edmonton

The Eddies will play two "home" games at Fort Mac's Macdonald Island facility this season.

The Eddies will play two “home” games at Fort Mac’s Macdonald Island facility this season.

On Wednesday, FC Edmonton confirmed that the dates on which it will play its two Fort McMurray “home” games.

As had been expected, the Eddies’ fall season opener — kicking off just hours before the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver — will go July 5 in Fort Mac. The NASL champion San Antonio Scorpions will provide the opposition. The Eddies will return to the heart of the oil sands on Aug. 2 for a match against the Ottawa Fury.

The team had announced last season that two games would be coming to Fort McMurray. But, with the announced dates comes a real test for the Edmonton market.

Because of the Women’s World Cup, FC Edmonton has to clear out of Clarke Stadium — which is an official practice facility for the teams — by the end of May. The team’s final home game of the spring season goes on May 24.

The next time Edmonton is at “home” is the July 5 Fort Mac game. It then goes out on a three-game road trip. FC Edmonton is finally back at Clarke July 26, but then is back in Fort McMurray the next weekend (Aug. 2).
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Is Sunday the worst sports day of the week? A fascinating Edmonton study

FC Edmonton plays almost all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

FC Edmonton plays almost all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

Major League Soccer plays some of its games on Sunday afternoons and evenings. FC Edmonton of the NASL plays all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

But is Sunday a day that we, as in Canadians, actually want to watch sports? Or is it a day that we’d like to get away from the sporting universe? Even the most ardent fan reaches a critical mass, where he or she says “enough” and needs to do something else than follow scores and trades and watch game after game. You need to spend time with the kids, go to the lake, just get outside, talk to real people.

In the course of my editing duties at Avenue Edmonton, members of the Edmonton Eskimos brass — our city’s Canadian Football League team — sat down with me to go over an intense survey that they and Banister Research Consulting Inc. conducted. One of the key questions was: On what day do you prefer to watch Eskimos games? (You can find that full article HERE, BTW). The results were fascinating.

43 per cent said their first choice was Friday nights.
41 per cent said their first choice was Saturdays.
And — get this — only seven per cent said they’d most prefer to watch football on Sundays.
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Weak Canadian dollar is bad news for Canadian soccer franchises

loonFor some businesses — a weak Canadian dollar is a good thing.

Professional sports is definitely not one of them. The Canadian dollar flirted with the US 80-cent mark on Thursday. And, the currency plunge will soon be hurting the bottom lines of Canadian MLS and NASL teams.

MLS and NASL teams aren’t forthcoming about the terms of their contracts. But the MLS Players Union sheds some light on how the salaries are paid out. According to MLSPU Executive Director Bob Foose: “All contracts are calculated in U.S. Dollars, players can then choose to have them paid in either, or a combination.”

So, according to the union, it’s the player’s (or agent’s) call when it comes to determining if the cheques are paid in American or Canadian dollars. And, it’s hard to imagine a player not choosing to get paid in the more stable currency — the Yankee dollar. In the NHL, where there are seven teams out of 30 are Canadian, contracts are paid out in U.S. figures — including Canadian players on Canadian teams.

Toronto FC has confirmed that all MLS salaries are in US dollars.

The salaries we see published by the MLS Players Union are all in American dollars. So, if Toronto FC has Designated Player Michael Bradley on for an MLSPU-reported salary of $6.5 million, that’s American dollars. So, as of Thursday’s exchange rate, Bradley’s salary is now at nearly CDN$8.05 million, and going up (in Canadian currency) as the loonie plummets.

Try this as a comparison: At the start of the 2014 MLS season, the Canadian dollar was at 90.2 cents US. So, a year ago, Bradley’s contract was worth about $7.2 million in Canadian bucks. This year, it’s over $8 million. And that’s all because of the plunging dollar.
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Back in the fold: Zebie signs deal with FC Edmonton

"Friendly Match"Allan Zebie didn’t take the most direct route to an FC Edmonton contract. But he got there.

On Thursday, the Eddies announced that the France-born, Canada-raised fullback — who played with Canada’s U-20 side in 2013 — has been signed. Zebie, now 21, joined the FCE Academy in 2012 but left to explore options in Europe. He had trials with Rangers, a club that once employed FCE coach Colin Miller (and is still close to his heart) and Leeds United. In 2014, Zebie returned to Edmonton and spent much of the season training with the Eddies.

Zebie said he only spent a week at Leeds, but had a positive first three days with Rangers. And then Murphy’s Law came into play.

“I was supposed to be there for a week, I was there, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then they asked me if I could stay another week. But then I got injured.”

Zebie hoped to get back to Rangers once he got healthy, but a deal never worked out.
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FCE fall-season opener conflicts with WWC final: How NASL blew the fall schedule

NASL_logo_previewThe NASL fall schedule came out on Tuesday. And one game sticks out like a sore thumb.

And that’s FC Edmonton’s fall season opener, which will go July 5 at 2 p.m. (local time) against the San Antonio Scorpions. Considering that the game still occurs in the Women’s World Cup window — the money is on that being one of the two fall-season games that will be hosted in Fort McMurray, though the club isn’t expected to confirm those dates till next week.

Oh, did I mention the World Cup window? Actually, the game will happen on the same day as the Women’s World Cup final. The FC Edmonton-San Antonio game kicks off just three hours before the big game at BC Place goes forward.

By playing on the same day as the Women’s World Cup Final, whether it be in Edmonton or Fort McMurray, the Eddies will likely be largely ignored that day. And, flights from Alberta to Vancouver are short in duration and plentiful in supply. So, chances are more than a few Alberta-based fans who could have been at the Eddies game will be in Vancouver for the big final. (Now, those odds are lessened if the game is placed in Fort Mac — as it will likely be treated as a special event).
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FC Edmonton signs Icelandic midfielder Oskar Orn Hauksson

Reykjavik's Oskar Orn Hauksson, left.

Reykjavik’s Oskar Orn Hauksson, left.

Last year in Edmonton, Iceland was all the rage. After direct-flight service to Reykjavik was launched, there were Icelandic festivals in the Alberta capital, Iceland-themed scavenger hunts, and even the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunlaugsson, came to visit. Pretty well everyone in Edmonton was either going to Iceland or knew someone who was going to Iceland. It had replaced the all-inclusive in Mexico as our vacation destination of choice.

It’s 2015, and Iceland has yet to show any signs of jumping the shark. On the day the Oscar nominations were made, the Eddies made their own Oskar announcement.

On Thursday, FC Edmonton announced that Iceland national-team midfielder Oskar Orn Hauksson will join the team on season-long loan from KR Reykjavik. The FCE front office confirmed that Hauksson cannot be recalled by Reykjavik during the term of the loan.

Hauksson started all but two matches for Reykjavik in 2014. He scored four goals. He played for Reykjavik in a 2012 Champions League qualifier against HJK Helsinki, and has also spent time with Norwegian side, Sandnes Ulf — a team which once employed Edmonton’s Tosaint Ricketts.
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Canada’s latest roster is proof that there is no room at the inn for NASL players

Benito Floro

Benito Floro

If you’re a supporter of either the Ottawa Fury or FC Edmonton, you might be feeling that your teams got snubbed.

The roster for Canada’s upcoming friendlies with Iceland was released on Friday. With the European soccer season in full swing, only four players who play their professional soccer on that continent were called in. Iain Hume (Kerala Blasters) and Dejan Jakovic (Shimuzu J-Pulse) will make the trip from Asia to join the national team, which begins training January 12 in Florida. Canada plays Iceland on Jan. 16 and 19.

And a lot of the “North-American-based” majority of the roster is made up of unattached players, players from MLS academies, even League1 Ontario. The top U-20 players are with Rob Gale’s squad, as they prepare for the CONCACAF Championships.

Even when Floro faced the crunch of not having first- or second- or third-choice players readily available, he opted to ignore players on FC Edmonton and Ottawa. And that’s on a roster that looks like one where the coach has decided to bring in some players he has yet to see.

So, FCE’s John Smits, who won the 2014 NASL Golden Glove award for having the best goals-against average in the league, isn’t worthy of a call. Nor is FCE right back Edson Edward, widely regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the NASL — and proved late last season that he could also play a central midfield role.
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Boakai the sole Eddie to make Canada’s U-20 roster

Hanson Boakai  PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai
PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai will be going to the CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica, but he’ll be the only FC Edmonton player making the trip.

The 18-year-old FC Edmonton midfielder was on coach Rob Gale’s final roster for the U-20 CONCACAF Championship, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Canada begins the tournament with a Jan. 10 match against Haiti; but its group-stage fortunes will likely hinge on the result of the Jan. 12 match against Mexico.

But two other FCE prospects, striker Sadi Jalali and defender Mark Aleksic, who had received long looks from Gale in previous U-20 camps, didn’t make the final cut. But, it needs to be noted that this generation of U-20 players is arguably the deepest this country has produced. It will feature the likes of Cyle Larin, who could be a top MLS SuperDraft pick if he chooses to go that route, and Toronto FC striker Jordan Hamilton. Whitecaps keeper Marco Carducci is already a member of his club’s senior roster. Luca Gasparotto is playing at Airdrie in Scotland, and midfielder Michael Petrasso is on loan to Notts County in England.
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Afternoon delight: Day games, Colin Miller’s pitch, sell Matt Van Oekel on move to FC Edmonton

Matt Van Oekel

Matt Van Oekel

FC Edmonton keeper John Smits won the NASL Golden Glove award by posting a league-best 0.90 goals against average. He finished just slightly ahead of Minnesota United’s Matt Van Oekel, who came in with a 0.95 GAA for the league’s best team over the course of the combined spring and fall seasons.

Now, the two are teammates. On Thursday, the Eddies announced the acquisition of Van Oekel.

“I am looking forward to working with John,” Van Oekel said Thursday. “John is an excellent goalkeeper. I know that there are some things that I can learn from him, and I think there are some things that he can learn from me.”

The Eddies also have Canadian keepers Tyson Farago, who earned a team-of-the-week nomination when he made his lone start in the final week of the season. Christian Kaiswatum, promoted from the academy ranks in 2014, is the fourth keeper.

With Smits and Van Oekel in the fold, FCE has clearly put itself way ahead of the NASL pack when it comes to goalkeeping depth. This is one department where Edmonton ranks at the top of the league.

“He is arguably the best goalkeeper in the North American Soccer League (NASL),” FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller said in a release. “This is also a great signing for John Smits, Tyson Farago and Christian Kaiswatum — they will be able to work with someone who is experienced and knows the league very well. The competition for places also really heats up with his addition. I’m very excited about Matt’s decision to come to Edmonton.”
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It’s official: Calgary Foothills will play in PDL in 2015

The club, which will hold tryouts in early January, will play in the PDL’s Northwest Division. The division features teams from along the Pacific Coast in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — so the Calgary team will face some significant road trips, as will their rivals when they have to head east across the Rockies.

The PDL has confirmed that Calgary Foothills will join the league for the 2015 season.

The club, which will hold tryouts in early January, will play in the PDL’s Northwest Division. The division features teams from along the Pacific Coast in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — so the Calgary team will face some significant road trips, as will their rivals when they have to head east across the Rockies — and into the Mountain time zone.

The Vancouver Whitecaps won’t field a team in PDL this year, as it will focus on the new USL-PRO team that will play out of the University of British Columbia. But we can hope that a rivalry develops between Foothills and the Victoria Highlanders.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our club and the soccer community of Calgary to see high-profile soccer return to this great sporting city,” Calgary Foothills FC Technical Director and Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said in a release issued by the PDL. “Since being a part of USL in the early 2000s, it has always been a personal goal of mine to return to USL with another team from Calgary.
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