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FC Edmonton veterans are A-OK with “trialist” tags

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FC Edmonton is in the midst of two-a-day training sessions — which means a lot of drills without balls. Sprints. More sprints.

New FCE coach Colin Miller felt that, looking at the tape of last year’s matches, that the team wasn’t fit enough to compete at the NASL level, and it was a major contributor to the last-place finish. As the new coach, he has stressed fitness. And, for the veterans who spent the previous two years under coach Harry Sinkgraven, it’s a welcome change.

“It has been fantastic so far,” said midfielder and 2011 NASL Best XI member Shaun Saiko. “From my time at Middlesbrough, this was the kind of preseason training that we did. We’ve started the preseason off brightly, there have been no lulls. You have got to get after it.”

And the fact that Miller deemed all of the players “trialists,” even the veterans who have been regular starters over the past couple of year, doesn’t bother Saiko at all.

“It’s part of being a footballer. When the new coach comes in, you want to show him that you want to be part of his plans. He (Miller) expects a lot.

“No disrespect to the coaches we had last year, in fact they may have been the best technical coaches I have ever had, but the results we had reflected the coaches’ style. We have worked harder in the last three days than at any time over the past two years.”

“Definitely, it has been a lot more intense than it has been in the past,” said central defender Paul Hamilton, who was an NASL Best XI member last season. “Everyone has got to earn their spot. This our livelihood, and you have to fight for the spot. Colin has a different philosophy, he wants to make sure we are fit.”

It’s a very different scenario for Hamilton than it was at this time last season. In 2012, he was the only natural centre back at camp, and fullbacks or defensive midfielders were moved around to partner him. Now, he’s got competition for his job; Northern Irish defender Albert Watson looked confident and composed in the scrimmages, and is surprisingly quick for a big man. Lance Laing’s immigration issues are almost sorted out, and he’s expected to fly in Monday night from Jamaica. The 2011 NASL Best XI player, signed in the offseason, can play either in the middle or left back. Mallan Roberts is coming up from the reserve side, as is Chris de Guise.

“I’ve got to prove myself day in, day out,” said Hamilton.

CUTS:
On Friday, the roster was chopped by one, as Michel Okai’s trial with the club has come to an end. The former New York Red Bulls prospect was one of three players who got invites to training camp after impressing at the November amateur combine. But the Liberia-born prospect will not make the FCE squad.

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