Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton FCE changes formation, dominates match, has to settle for draw with Islanders

FCE changes formation, dominates match, has to settle for draw with Islanders

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FC Edmonton made a major tactical change. But a controversial red card to defender Kevin Hatchi hampered the Eddies’ attempt to turn their best effort in a month into three points.

The Eddies snapped their losing skid at two games, but extended their winless streak to three games after a 0-0 Canada Day draw with the Puerto Rico Islanders. The Eddies are now five points back of the sixth and final NASL playoff spot.

After two losses on the road, coach Harry Sinkgraven unveiled a new-look lineup. Instead of a 4-3-3, FCE switched to a 4-4-2, with Shaun Saiko moved from the outside to a free attacking midfield role behind the strikers. The switch allowed Saiko, who has five goals and four assists this season, to have the ball at his feet much more than he would out on the left side. And, with Ilja Van Leerdam, Kenny Caceros and Chris Kooy supporting him in midfield, Edmonton had a much easier time keeping possession.

“I really enjoyed the role, helping the two strikers and we created a few good chances,” said Saiko. “But luck was not on our side today. It’s a different look for us. And I think if it’s something we keep working on, we will have more success with it in the future.”

The Eddies dominated the first half, but saw attack after attack end in wayward shots. While FCE controlled the game, Puerto Rico fullback Richard Martinez thwarted chance after chance, getting in the way of crosses, blocking shots and defending with the tenacity of a bulldog. On a day in which Islanders coach Adrian Whitbread said his team played its worst first half of the season, Martinez’s efforts ensured the Islanders went to the dressing room all square at 0-0.

FCE had two chances of note; the first saw Saiko take a pass with his back to goal, flick the ball into the air, turn, collect the ball, and then fire a low shot that was deflected just wide of the far post. And, late in the half defender Paul Hamilton sent a header over the bar off a corner kick.

FCE came out strong in the second, dominating possession — but the Eddies’ efforts came undone in the 57th minute, when Hatchi was given his second yellow of the game. After Van Leerdam was brought down after the Eddies’ had scrambled away a Puerto Rico attack, Hatchi was shown the card for kicking the ball away. The team contended that Hatchi was simply playing the ball, not reacting a call on the field.

“That was the softest red card I have ever seen,” said Saiko after the match.

Sinkgraven brought in Kyle Porter for Yashir Pinto as the lone striker in a revised 4-4-1, and Serisay Barthelemy came in and provided energy in the midfield. But the best FCE chance after the card came when Saiko smacked a volley just wide from 30 yards away.

Despite the advantage, Puerto Rico created only one chance of note, a low shot from Jonathan Fana that Eddies’ keeper Lance Parker dove to his left to save.

Whitbread praised the efforts of the home team, saying the Eddies’ reacted well to the sending off of their left back.

“The opposition always seems to pick it up a level (after a red card),” said Whitbread. “That’s what they did.”

Still, for an FCE team on the outside of the playoff picture at the moment, getting only one point out of a game it dominated for a long period of time is frustrating. And, with the team now only having three wins out of its first 13, all of the 1,474 fans leaving Clarke Stadium after the final whistle could see Sinkgraven, director of soccer Joe Petrone, general manager Tom Leip, reserves coach Jeff Paulus and owner Tom Fath all in deep discussion.

With the red card, Hatchi will miss Wednesday’s game with San Antonio. As well, Van Leerdam will be out, as he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and also earned a suspension.

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