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FC Edmonton’s defenders won’t be verklempt by Barbara

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This Friday night, FC Edmonton will try to do what no other NASL club has done so far this season.

Stop Etienne Barbara.

The Maltese striker has 12 goals in 10 games so far this season. He’s only been held off the scoresheet once so far this NASL campaign. And, in that game, he set up both Carolina goals.

He’s a major reason why the RailHawks (8-1-1) have surged to the top of the NASL standings. And, Friday’s date at Foote Field will give third-place FC Edmonton, looking to recoved from Saturday’s 2-0 loss in Montreal, a real measuring stick of the club’s progress so far this season.

“There’s no doubt he’s the top striker in the league, leading in goals and assists,” said FC right back Antonio Rago after the team’s training session on Wednesday. “But it’s not just the one player who is tough to shut down, it’s the whole team. (Former Real Salt Lake forward Pablo) Campos is a very good player, and (former New York Red Bull Nick) Zimmerman can also join the attack.”

Carolina has scored 22 goals in 10 games this season. It hasn’t been shut out.

Rago said that Foote Field will present Carolina, which likes to play keep-away, some problems. It’s not just that the hard artificial surface runs fast; it’s the fact FCE’s home field is tiny.

“The field will be a factor. It’s no secret that teams come in here and have to play the long ball. That’s what they have to do on this type of field.”

In fact, FCE coach Harry Sinkgraven admitted one of the big reasons his club struggled so badly in Montreal was the size of the Stade Saputo pitch. FCE struggled to fill the gaps on the larger playing surface after playing two straight games at home.

Both Sinkgraven and central defender Paul Hamilton said the best way to stop Barbara is to cut off his service. If Barbara already has the ball at his feet in the opposition penalty area, there is only so much defenders can do.

But it’s not that easy. Barbara isn’t a one-dimensional striker. He’s not a black hole who doesn’t pass the ball. In the game he didn’t score, he set up two. In fact, on the second goal, he passed up a shooting opportunity to keep his goal-scoring streak alive. He chose instead to set up a teammate.

His work rate is excellent.

Hamilton remembers this from the first time the two teams met, a 2-0 win for the RailHawks in Cary, N.C. Barbara and Zimmerman scored in that game.

“He had a couple of clear chances on breakaways,” said Hamilton. “He’s got real good movement. We have to be aware of his positioning and his movement away from the ball.”

Lance Parker will return to the FCE goal as Rein Baart serves a one-game suspension for the red card he saw in Montreal for handling outside the penalty area. When Parker, the former Chivas USA keeper, last came in for Baart, he was named Defensive Player of the Week, and earned a win and a draw, allowing just one goal in two NASL starts (plus a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC in Nutrilite Canadian Championship play).

“Carolina plays well as a team,” said Parker “We can’t just focus on one player, we need to worry about the team as a whole.

“Barbara is playing well, obviously. He has great movement off the ball. We just have to make sure we mark him well, and we will be OK. Carolina is definitely one of the top teams in the league. But, is it our biggest test. We played Toronto FC, an MLS team, earlier. But you always want to play the best teams. You always want to find out where you are.”

Central defender Paul Matthijs didn’t train Tuesday or Wednesday. He’s nursing some various bumps and bruises. But he’s expected to train Thursday and be ready for Friday’s match.

Free kicks: Parker has more than a simple rooting interest in the United States team at the Gold Cup. When he was with Chivas USA, Parker played with three current members of the American squad now at the Gold Cup; midfielder Sacha Kljestan, defender Jonathan Bornstein and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Of the three, only Kljestan played in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Canada. He came on as a sub.

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3 Comments

  1. James

    June 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Reminds me of the Brickmen playing at Ducey Park in The WSA days. Its a killer stadium but it was built for baseball. Very bumpy. If soccer is going to survive, it needs it’s own home. A soccer specific stadium is the only way to go. Might get us a few more national team games too. Grass please.

    Reply

  2. Jamonty

    June 9, 2011 at 7:57 am

    What do you mean by “FCE’s home field is tiny”? Is there not a standard sized pitch regulated by the NASL?

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      June 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      FIFA rules state that a soccer field be a minimum of 100 yards in length, 130 yards max. A minimum of 50 yards wide, a max of 100 yards.

      For SANCTIONED matches, the field must be a minimum of 110 yards long, a max of 120 yards. Width can be from 70-80 yards wide.

      FCE’s field is at the lowest limit for FIFA-sanctioned matches. And it’s also very narrow; the width of a Canadian football field is 65 yards, and the touch lines for soccer are just outside of the football lines.

      The answer is no, there is no standard size for soccer pitches; there is room for variation. And the fact that Foote Field is a small field with quick turf makes it a very tough surface.

      And, to be fair, Foote is not the only challenging surface in NASL. Players have spoken to me about FC Tampa Bay’s Al Lang Stadium, which has the grass laid over a baseball diamond. I understand that is very bumpy.

      Reply

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