Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Gut check in Vancouver: “What a performance” by the Eddies, says Miller

Gut check in Vancouver: “What a performance” by the Eddies, says Miller

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The Vancouver Whitecaps were finally able to break down FC Edmonton’s defence late in the match, but a 1-1 draw at BC Place was still an awfully big result for the visitors.

The Eddies will now head back to the Alberta capital knowing that they have a real chance to knock off the Whitecaps when they play the second leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal next Wednesday. The Eddies have not lost a game at Clarke Stadium since last July. And, when the played MLS opposition at Clarke last season — the Montreal Impact — the Eddies won.

And the Eddies have a road goal.

The Eddies came off their worst performance of the season Sunday, in sapping heat in New York, with their gutsiest performance of the year Wednesday at BC Place.

“What a performance by these guys tonight,” said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. “It speaks to the culture that we’re trying to build here. We gave up some very poor goals to the best team in NASL on Sunday. But we came into this game not looking to draw; we thought we could win the game. We knew that, playing against the best team in the MLS Western Conference, that we couldn’t have one single player out there fail tonight. And we didn’t have any failures.”

The Eddies sat back and absorbed pressure and hit back on the counter, with lone striker Tomi Ameobi doing tireless work holding up ball after ball. He often won the first ball, despite being outnumbered two or three to one.

Earlier this year, Miller said that he felt Ameobi could play in a much bigger league than NASL — and that he could be the best striker in NASL — if he could find consistency.

Ameobi has been nothing but dangerous over the last month.

“I stand by what I said,” Miller said over the phone, voice hoarse from two hours of yelling at BC Place. “He really is a joy to work with, from the effort he puts in to his humility. He has a great willingness to learn and improve himself, and he did very well for us again tonight.”

Without injured captain Albert Watson, the back line held for most of the game. Yes, the Whitecaps started a young, experimental lineup, choosing to leave many of their big guns in their street clothes. But, the Eddies can only be judged based on the team that the Whitecaps put in front of them.

Miller said that Watson could have played Wednesday “in a pinch,” but that he wanted to give the captain a few more days off before Sunday’s league game at home to the Scorpions.

The Eddies have been poor starters for most of the year; in three NASL games and one previous ACC match, they’ve given up goals inside the 90-second mark. But the Eddies turned the table, stunning the BC Place crowd with a fourth minute goal. Tomi Ameobi picked the pocket of Whitecaps’ holding midfielder Gershon Koffie, who lingered on the ball. Ameobi nicked the ball, went in alone, and cooly slotted a low shot inside the post.

And, while the Whitecaps had some decent spells of possession as the first half went on, they did little to trouble Eddies’ keeper Matt Van Oekel. There were a couple of chances scuffed wide. But, for the most part, forwards Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado couldn’t get chances because passes were being cut out. And the Whitecaps struggled to get the ball behind the Eddies’ fullbacks.

The Whitecaps had more chances in the second half, though. But Eddies keeper Matt Van Oekel made two big saves, first swatting away a Hurtado attempt and then coming off the line to block a shot from Mattocks.

In the 65th minute, Mattocks nodded a ball into the Eddies penalty area for Hurtado to run on to — but Hurtado, with only Van Oekel to beat, blasted the ball wide.

Kekuta Manneh and Robert Earnshaw were brought in to bolster the Whitecaps’ attack, and the Eddies had to beat back attack after attack. Kareem Moses and Mallan Roberts did well to win a lot of balls pushed to the middle of the area. Fullback Eddie Edward had his best game of the season, a dominant force on the right side.

But, playing on the unforgiving BC Place turf — and not rotating the squad from Sunday’s game — finally took its toll on the Eddies. And, in the 86th minute, left back Johann Smith — playing because of the injuries to Watson and left back Allan Zebie — couldn’t get a bouncing ball out of the penalty area. The ball came to Koffie, who somewhat atoned for his earlier error by finishing the chance.

(“Somewhat” and not “fully” as road goals loom larger than goals scored at home.)

Last year, the Eddies went out at the semifinal stage to the Impact thanks to a 96th-minute penalty in the second leg. Now, they’ve gone to Vancouver and got a 1-1 draw. Say what you will about MLS teams resting players; the NASL team has made a solid account of itself.

“It doesn’t matter what players were out there in Whitecaps shirts tonight,” said Miller. “They are excellent players. They are one of the best teams in MLS.”

And, there’s no doubt that the Eddies would love nothing more than another shot at the Impact, who qualified for the final thanks to Dominic Oduro’s late headed goal in Toronto earlier Wednesday night.

That game, a 3-2 “win” for TFC that saw the Reds lose on the away-goals rule, was another example of great Cup theatre, as a single flick from Oduro’s head cancelled out a furious second-half rally from the Reds, spurred by Designated Players Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.

If anything, these semifinal ties, added to some compelling ties in 2014, are proof that the Canadian Championship is important, that it needs to grow. Because, let’s face it — in terms of sheer entertainment, they’ve offered the best games we’ve seen in Canada over the last couple of years.

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9 Comments

  1. italk2u

    May 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I know your point well Steve, as you know…and I fell into the same trap myself for many years. Now that I’m retired I see why I should have been more diligent in mentioning sponsor names.
    Fact is, without name mentions there is no sponsor, without a sponsor, there is no team ,no sport, no venue.
    You are under no obligation to mention it, absolutely, but you do have an obligation to the sport and the team. Why do you think the Fath group has its name on the eddies kit, or Rogers has its name on the new arena?
    Those style books you refer to were written by a bunch of journalism professors in some high falutin’ American or British university and in no way reflect the reality of today’s professional sports picture.
    And therein lies the difference between the print and electronic media, I guess.
    We’re all a bunch a shills, whether we care to admit or not.

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      May 14, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      I believe very strongly in said style books. Magazines Canada guidelines also mean a lot to me. I could never allow what I do online or in electronic form compromise what I do as a magazine editor. People have called me a “hardass” many times, and it’s a title of which I am quite proud.

      Reply

      • italk2u

        May 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

        Haha. I can see that Steve. Let me just say I was one once too, until it cost me a job.
        That is the reality of media life. You’ll see….someday.
        Good debate….thanks.

        Reply

  2. left back

    May 14, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Why didn’t they play like that in NY?

    I think CM harbors a bit of a grudge against the Caps as he was really far down the pecking order in terms of coaches on the West Coast… good to see him get a draw out of last night… he must of had the lads up for it in the dressing room as they didn’t concede in the first minute…!

    Maybe he tanked the game in NY knowing this game was on the horizon… sure looks that way.

    Hope the weather co operates this Wednesday.. could see a record crowd to help push the lads over the line!

    Reply

  3. cwell

    May 14, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I would think that the 21,000 in attendance in Toronto would agree that last night’s game was well played and entertaining, despite the disappointment of seeing their team drop out of the competition.

    Reply

  4. Sport Shaman

    May 13, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Are you obligated to refer to this tournament as the American Way Championship? These teams are playing for the Voyageurs Cup which somehow didn’t get mentioned although I am sure you know the history.

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      May 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      First mention only. After that it’s the ACC or “Canadian Championship”

      Reply

      • italk2u

        May 14, 2015 at 9:13 am

        Are you obligated to refer to this as “the Voyageurs Cup?. Absolutely not, since it is called The Amway Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup”.
        Unless of course you think that calling Rexall Place the Edmonton Coliseum, is okay too.
        In today’s sports world, nobody, including the CSA can afford to throw way millions of dollars n sponsorship money for naming rights just because a few guys in Toronto and Vancouver put up a few bucks or a cheap piece of hardware that gets taken out of storage once a year.
        Steve, please call it what it is. “The Amway Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup”.
        It’llkeep Amway happy, and it SHOULD keep the Voyageurs happy.

        Reply

        • Steven Sandor

          May 14, 2015 at 9:25 am

          Without turning this into Journalism 101, it isn’t the journalist’s obligation to mention a sponsor. And our guidebooks and style guides instruct us to try and minimize the use of corporate names. And it makes sense, if a company pays to sponsor a tournament or a venue, why should it be the obligation of the journalist to spread that branding. We’re journalists, not PR people. In fact some style guides urge to not use corporate names at all. I try to use them as little as possible. First mention and then move on. I think “Canadian Championship” is just fine. ACC is OK.

          As well, there’s another portion to the argument; that, by sponsoring events, advertisers and sponsors are trying to get off on the cheap. Sure, there’s one big spend — but that means getting their names in numerous TV outlets, magazines, newspapers, blogs… without paying a cent in advertising to those organs. My message to sponsors is simple; if you want to be featured in The 11 or Plastic Pitch, contact teamworkpress@rogers.com for ad rates.

          Reply

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