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FC Edmonton experiments with its Foote-wear

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FC Edmonton's Shaun Saiko skips past the challenge of NSC Minnesota's Justin Davis Monday night on the hard Foote Field turf. JOHN TURNER PHOTO.

Kyle Porter was wearing them. So was defender Paul Hamilton. And Sam Lam, too. Dutch defender Paul Matthijs had a pair on his feet. So did striker Conrad Smith, and midfielder Dominic Oppong.

All of these FC Edmonton players were wearing turf (indoor) shoes on the hard artificial playing surface during Thursday’s practice at Foote Field.

It’s all part of adjusting to what has to be the trickiest surface in NASL. Because FCE had such a road-heavy schedule through the first month of the season — and had extended training camps in Arizona and Florida before the campaign began — the club didn’t spend much time this year on the old turf at the University of Alberta’s home stadium.

But, with two games at Foote behind them, the players are getting used to how fast the turf plays. They know that through balls keep running and running away from the strikers. They know that the ball bobbles when it hits the hard football, soccer and lacrosse lines on the field. And, as they get used to the nuances of the hard turf, they know it will be a huge home advantage.

“I think it’s going to be big for us,” said Hamilton. “When teams come in here, and they are expecting nice turf, and they see this, I think it will get in their heads, too.”

One of the biggest challenges of getting used to the turf is finding the right footwear to use on it.

Porter said the hard turf is too slick, especially when it’s cold and/or wet, to wear indoor shoes on it in a game. But he said there have been experiments on which stud set-up works the best.

“We’ve tried the multis, the blades. I think what works the best are the Copas (the short studs). But I find you slip a lot with the turf shoes, but you slip a lot with the cleats, too.”

Porter said the reason so many FCE players are training with indoor shoes is that the cleats, on hard ground, are especially hard on the feet. Day after day, it places a lot of wear and tear on the feet.

Porter said he wouldn’t try to use the indoor shoes in an NASL match. Hamilton said he would be willing to try it later in the season.

“You wear short studs when it’s cool,” he said. “The longer studs just dig into this too much. But, we played on this last year (during FC Edmonton’s schedule of friendly matches), and I know that when it gets warmer out, this surface gets sticky. So, in the summer, I might try to use the turf shoes.”

But, when the surface gets wet — as it was for Thursday’s practice, Porter said there is no footwear that will work well on it.

But the ball moves more quickly on the damp turf. And Hamilton said it helped give FCE a home-turf edge over NSC Minnesota in Monday’s 2-1 win.

“There’s definitely some adjustments you have to make if you want to play the passing game,” said Hamilton. “But Monday it was a little wet, and it made it a little easier to keep the ball down.”

FC Tampa Bay will try its luck on the turf when it visits Edmonton next Tuesday.

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