Fort Lauderdale Strikers Archive

2

Marcina’s Soccer Bowl win caps off a great season for Canadians in NASL

Now, Marcina can add “Soccer Bowl” to his coaching résumé. Two superb goals — a bicycle kick from Rafa Castillo and a great run and finish by Billy Forbes — gave the Scorpions a 2-1 win Saturday night in the NASL Championship game.

In the midst of the 2013 season, Surrey, B.C. native Alen Marcina was asked to take over the San Antonio Scorpions on an interim basis. The team was in the NASL basement at the time. But, Marcina did well enough with what he had to convince the Scorpions brass that he deserved to have the interim tag removed.

Now, Marcina can add “Soccer Bowl” to his coaching résumé. Two superb goals — a bicycle kick from Rafa Castillo and a great run and finish by Billy Forbes — gave the Scorpions a 2-1 win Saturday night in the NASL Championship game.

It caps off what has to be termed as a very good year for Canadians in the NASL.

Of the 10 NASL teams, three were coached by Canadians. One won a title. Another, Colin Miller, received a three-year extension from his club, FC Edmonton. A Canadian, John Smits, won the Golden Glove award, which goes to the keeper with the lowest goals-against average in the league — with enough minutes played to qualify. A Canadian team, the Ottawa Fury, set a modern-day NASL attendance record in its TD Place opener. FCE’s Hanson Boakai got an invite to a senior national-team — at the age of 17.
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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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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

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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2

Eddies not sure if unexpected weekend off will hurt or help the Rowdies

Lance Laing  puts the ball past Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens. Two weekends ago, the Eddies beat Tampa, 1-0. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Lance Laing puts the ball past Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens. Two weekends ago, the Eddies beat Tampa, 1-0. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

As FC Edmonton trained Thursday at Clarke Stadium, a winter wind whipped across the field. There were a few snow flurries in the air. The thermometer read 1 C, but the wind made it feel much colder than the freezing mark.

Forward Tomi Ameobi said it was much colder than at any time during the time he played professionally in Iceland.

It won’t be that cold on Saturday, when the Eddies are in Tampa Bay to face the Rowdies, who they defeated at Clarke Stadium just two weeks ago. The stakes are high; the Eddies are six points behind Carolina for the fourth and final post-season spot — based on the overall standings. But Tampa is just one point behind the Eddies, with two games in hand. Fort Lauderdale is one point ahead of the Eddies (in fifth place) with a game in hand.

So, you could argue that the Eddies need to beat Tampa away and then make sure to beat Carolina at Clarke Stadium two weeks from now to remain in the chase.

The game in Tampa will offer an interesting contrast; leading up to a game in Florida, the Eddies have been training in icy Alberta conditions. Meanwhile, the Rowdies had last weekend’s scheduled match against Fort Lauderdale postponed — so they may be rusty (or well-rested, depending on your perspective).
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8

Laing haunts old team as FCE climbs the standings

Laince Laing, right, tormented the Strikers on Saturday. FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Laince Laing, right, tormented the Strikers on Saturday. FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

All in all, it was a pretty good day at the office for FC Edmonton left winger Lance Laing.

Set up a goal against your former team? Check.

Score a goal against your former team? Check.

Sneak in a smooch with your fiancée after scoring? Check.

Run the opposing fullback into the ground? Check.

Laing was clearly the focus as the Eddies thrilled the home supporters Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The win puts Edmonton just four points back of Carolina in the overall standings; the RailHawks currently hold down the fourth and final playoff spot. The result also vaulted FCE into fourth in the NASL fall standings.
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5

It’s a six-pointer: NASL post-season race heats up as Strikers face FCE on Sunday

From earlier this season: Fort Lauderdale's Chris Nurse, left, shields the ball from FCE's Neil Hlavaty PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

From earlier this season: Fort Lauderdale’s Chris Nurse, left, shields the ball from FCE’s Neil Hlavaty PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

After several years of frustration, it must be awfully nice for FC Edmonton and its supporters to look forward to a real, legitimate six-pointer.

The Eddies, who have scored eight times over the last four games — three of them on the road — are now just six points behind the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies, who are tied for fourth spot on the NASL combined spring/fall table. That fourth spot represents the final playoff spot in the league.

If the Eddies can beat the Strikers on Sunday, they’ll close the gap between the teams to three points. Meanwhile, the Rowdies play the Carolina RailHawks (who are just four points ahead of the Eddies) on Saturday.

“The guys know what a big game it is already, and we’re trying to take some of the pressure off of them this week in training,” said coach Colin Miller after the team’s training session in Clareview on Thursday. “The guys know the significance of the result. I would settle for a sub-standard performance if we get the three points. At this point of the season, it’s about getting three points. We’re capable of doing it.”
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9

NASL Commissioner talks about Canada’s long-term plans, expansion and league format

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson says his league is looking closely at one unnamed Canadian market as an expansion candidate, and is supportive of the long-term goals of the Canadian Soccer Association.

In a state-of-the-NASL conference call held Thursday morning, Peterson said he would be talking with CSA officials later in the day to discuss the organization’s long-term vision for the game in Canada. And he said the NASL would support the CSA’s vision, even if it includes the eventual launch of a Canadian Division “1A” league.

“We will have discussions with the CSA looking at the long-term future, what it looks like,” Peterson said. “We are open and supportive to what the long-term goals are going to be.”
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