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FC Edmonton experiments with switcheroo on defence

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Eddy Sidra

When a team is on a five-game losing streak, as FC Edmonton as at the moment, the coach will tinker with the lineup. It’s natural.

As the Eddies prepared for Sunday’s home date with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Antonio Rago, who has been the team’s starting right back throughout the season, was lined up on the left side in practice. Meanwhile, Eddy Sidra, who got his first start of the season last week in the left back slot, was on his preferred right side.

Does this mean coach Harry Sinkgraven will try a switcheroo? It’s an interesting gamble, because Rago has never played on the left side. Ever. Not even in minor soccer.

“We’ve lost five games in a row,” said Rago after practice at Foote Field on Friday. “So the coach is going to change it up. But we’re still two days away from the game. This isn’t the concrete lineup.”

FCE’s losing streak has seen it plummet from second to sixth in the NASL standings. But the Eddies are still nine points up on the Montreal Impact for the final playoff spot.

Sidra was expected to be a big part of the team at the start but has had to fight to get away from the reserve team. But he was strong at left back in last week’s 1-0 loss to Puerto Rico, and he says that signs are pointing to another start on Sunday — but this time likely at right back.

“It was a major struggle for me to get into the lineup,” admitted Sidra, who had a trial with Toronto FC before signing with his hometown team (for a refresher on Sidra’s trial with TFC, click HERE). “When I came in, I was out of shape; then I was in and out with injuries. It’s been a constant battle to get back into game shape.”

Sidra has pro experience in Germany — and last appeared for the national team in a 2010 friendly against Venezuela. Sidra earned the free-kick that allowed Canada to get a last-gasp equalizer in South America.

“For me, I would be excited to get a chance to get back with the national team. It’s an honour. Even though I wasn’t born in Canada (Sidra was born in Sudan), I have a lot of patriotic pride. But to get to the national team, you have to be playing well and consistently. Right now, I don’t have the minutes, but I want to get as many games in as I can.”

And Sidra is relishing the chance to play pro soccer at home. He lives with his family and gets home-cooked meals.

“I was excited when I was in Germany and first heard Edmonton was going to get a team. But then I was nervous because of the struggles previous teams have had here (the USL Aviators went bankrupt during their first and only USL season back in ’04). But it has been great; this is totally different.”

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