Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Miller: Seven points the target for FCE’s three-game road trip

Miller: Seven points the target for FCE’s three-game road trip

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FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller was happy to get a point on the road in the club’s NASL opener. But he wants more — a lot more — out of the team’s three-game road trip to start the season.

“Seven points, that’s the target I had set for myself,” said Miller Wednsday after the team’s training session in Sunrise, Fla. “That means we have little margin for error.”

The fact that Miller went into this road trip — which continues Saturday with a match against the Carolina RailHawks and concludes in two weekends with a date at the Metrodome with Minnesota United FC — wanting two wins and a draw shows just how much confidence he has in a team that’s lineup has been rebuilt from last year’s last-place finish.

After the 1-1 draw in Fort Lauderdale, the team remained in Florida, training at the same facility in Sunrise that’s often used by various Canadian national teams.

Because the team spent almost all of its preseason indoors — save for a week in Vancouver — the camp allows the players to better acclimate to the heat and humidity of the deep south ahead of the RailHawks match. And, budget wise, it’s actually cheaper to leave the team in the U.S. rather than fly it back from Florida to Edmonton, then out to North Carolina.

“I have said it before but I will keep saying it, the players’ attitude is fantastic,” said Miller. “Now we have begun the preparations for Carolina, but we have also begun preparations for our (Nutrilite Canadian Championship) matches against the Whitecaps. We want to be two weeks ahead in our preparation time.”

FCE hosts the Whitecaps April 24, then goes to Vancouver May 1.

Seven points is a very tough thing to ask of this team. Miller understands that.

“This weekend will be a difficult game. (Carolina coach) Colin Clarke always makes sure that his side is competitive. And it is their home opener, so we will have to deal with another first-night crowd. But I have to say that the players are so much more mental strength than the at the start of preseason.”

The distraction of playing against Paul Hamilton has been removed. Hamilton, who signed with the RailHawks after being cut by the Eddies, isn’t eligible to play this weekend. He was sent off in the RailHawks’ opener against the Tampa Bay Rowdies so is unavailable this weekend.

And, after the RailHawks match, the Eddies will have to face former teammate Bryan Arguez in Minnesota, along with former NASL MVP Etienne Barbara, who signed a letter of intent to play with FCE in 2013, then was able to extricate himself from that promise for personal reasons. The Maltese forward later decided to move to MUFC.

“Minnesota spent a lot of money in the off-season,” said Miller. “But that puts all of those players under a lot of pressure, as well.”

As for the Eddies, midfielder Chris Nurse is struggling with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the opener, and Miller doesn’t see the need to rush him. Antonio Rago and striker Sadi Jalali are back training after suffering through bouts of food poisoning.

Rago, a regular at fullback last season, was plunged into a central midfield role for the opener because Nurse wasn’t ready to go.

“He did well for us there,” said Miller. “We pushed him in at the deep end. Defensively, he did some good things.”

But Miller was more than enthused by the play of Edem Mortotsi, the 19-year-old NAIT product who just moved up to the big club from the reserve side. After Mortotsi came in as a second-half sub, Edmonton showed a little more purpose going forward. Judging by Miller’s praise for Mortotsi’s play, we can likely expect to see more of him on the road trip.

 

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