Canadian national team: Edmonton game smashes the must-play-at-BMO Field stereotype By Steven Sandor Posted on May 27, 2013 6 0 586 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Nik Ledgerwood The same old arguments are used over and over. The national team can’t play in Edmonton or Vancouver or (place city not named Toronto here) because of the lack of direct flights or the turf on the fields. Tuesday’s friendly at Commonwealth Stadium is proof that some of those stereotypes are now out of date. FACT: The Costa Rican Federation requested that the friendly in Canada be played on artificial turf, not grass. The Costa Ricans open the Gold Cup on fake stuff in Portland, and wanted to prepare for it. As more stadiums convert to the fake stuff (and this is just a statement of fact, not a pro-con article about grass vs. turf), more preparatory matches will also be played on turf. FACT: Edmonton’s airport has undergone a major expansion. There are more direct flights. And the key one is a direct route from Heathrow to Edmonton. Most European-based players can get to London directly. The key is having the direct link to Heathrow, which is something YEG now has. For MLS players, YEG’s expanded airport serves New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, Houston and Seattle directly. Lethbridge native Nik Ledgerwood played Thursday for Hammarby IF, then flew from Stockholm to London, then Heathrow to Edmonton. The defender said the flights were draining — but it’s something every national-team player accepts. “It’s a long flight, especially coming out for a single game,” said Ledgerwood. “It’s a 12-hour flight and, as soon as you get off the plane, you step on the field. But, as national-team players we know the long travel comes with it. We’re willing to sacrifice the hours for the long flights to do it.” Ledgerwood is one of three Albertans who was named to the roster for the Costa Rica match. But just two of them — Ledgerwood and Edmonton’s own Randy Edwini-Bonsu — were training at Commonwealth Stadium Monday. Edmonton native Tosaint Ricketts, who plays with Norway’s Sandnes Ulf, wasn’t expected to arrive till Monday night. That means he’ll dress for the game without the benefit of a single training session. Ledgerwood said that, even though both teams aren’t starting “A”-list regulars, that the game is a solid test ahead of the Gold Cup. “Any game in CONCACAF isn’t really a friendly,” he said. Ledgerwood was on the bench during the last time Canada played at Commonwealth, a draw with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier back in 2008. Edwini-Bonsu is looking at his club options (“I need playing time”) after sitting on the bench for most of the season with Eintracht Braunschweig, which won promotion to the Bundesliga. He’s excited to be able to play a national-team game for the first time in his home city. “I hope I can give them (friends and relatives) what they came for,” said Edwini-Bonsu. REB said that a Canadian player in Europe has to prove himself every day. There are doubters everywhere he turns, and it all has to do with the passport. “All my (Braunschweig) teammates make fun of me everyday,” laughed REB. “When Canada lost 8-1 to Honduras, I heard about it for a week.” But Edwini-Bonsu, like Ricketts, leads a bit of a double life. He’s a centre of attention in the European centre in which he plays, but anonymous in Edmonton. But, to Edwini-Bonsu, the time back in Edmonton is a nice break from the pressures of European football. “I like it. When I am in Germany people will come over to me when I am having dinner and want to get their photograph taken with me. I don’t like that. When I get back to Edmonton, I’m just Randy, like I am to my family and my friends. I like that.” Interim coach Colin Miller, who also bosses FC Edmonton, has over 60 caps for Canada, many of them earned at Commonwealth. “Selfishly, I want to play more games here,” he said. “This is a fantastic facility… I have very fond memories of the national team playing here in Edmonton. A very pro-Canadian crowd.” Organizers are hopeful for a crowd in the 10,000 range. Not all of Commonwealth will be open Tuesday as the stadium is in the midst of getting new seats.