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Drillers and FC Edmonton to work together

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The indoor Edmonton Drillers will act as a proving ground for some FC Edmonton prospects.

Antonio Rago, a former member of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency, and 16-year-old keeper Matt Preston were in the lineup for the Drillers’ indoor season-opening 7-6 loss in Calgary on New Year’s Eve.

“Preston’s a player who has got a bright future,” said FC Edmonton general manager Mel Kowalchuk.

The Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League (CMISL) is an amateur circuit, so no player with a professional contract with FC Edmonton, which kicks off its inaugural NASL season in April, is eligible to play with the Drillers. But Rago and Preston currently retain their amateur status, so they can play in the indoor circuit.

FC Edmonton has also suggested to some of its other amateur-status players that they take the opportunity to get some playing time with the Drillers. The two clubs have recently forged a very close working arrangement.

For a young amateur player making the jump to NASL, the CMISL can help a player transition into life as a professional. Edmonton will make road trips to San Diego and Stockton, Calif. in the 2011 season. The two California teams are in the PASL, but the results from those games count in Edmonton’s CMISL standings, just as Winnipeg’s games with Canton and Detroit will count on that’s team’s ledger.

Think of the PASL and CMISL as National and American baseball leagues; at the end of the season, their league champs — along with an affiliated Mexican league winner — will meet to determine a continental champion, a World Series of indoor soccer. During the season, just as the Yankees and Mets meet in interleague play, PASL and CMISL clubs meet in order to promote the indoor game — and those games count in the standings for all teams involved. Edmonton can’t play Calgary every week, right?

FC Edmonton’s current roster is filled with CMISL grads, including Chris Kooy (Calgary United FC) and Chris Lemire (Drillers).

The Drillers open their home schedule Saturday — a doubleheader with Winnipeg.

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