Saiko admits frustration over FC Edmonton’s scoring woes By Steven Sandor Posted on September 10, 2013 3 0 433 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Shaun Saiko FC Edmonton is undefeated in five matches (OK, four of them were draws). Six games into the fall season, and the Eddies are in seventh place in the eight-team NASL, but are just three points out of first place. The team is contending in the fall season. But, for those who have supported the club, seeing Shaun Saiko sitting on the bench is kinda, well, weird. Two seasons ago, the local product scored nine times, added five assists and was named to the league’s Best XI. Last year, seven goals and six assists. This year, just two goals and three assists, and he hasn’t been starting of late. Saiko hasn’t started a game since Aug. 18. The last couple of weeks, he’s been used as a second-half sub, and coach Colin Miller said he knows that the midfielder brings a little more of an offensive dimension to the team. So, for now, it looks as if super sub is the role for Saiko, with Gagan Dosanjh out on the left, Neil Hlavaty on the right, and Robert Garrett often used behind the forwards. Part of the reason for Saiko’s reduced minutes has been a bad hip; he had surgery on it six years ago, and the constant wear-and-tear of training on the hard, hard Clarke Stadium turf takes its toll. But there’s no doubt that he’s frustrated. Not just on a personal level, but also because, despite Edmonton’s massive improvements in midfield and on the defensive line, the team can’t break away and win games because it still struggles to score goals. Its offensive output continues to be the worst in the league. “It’s not just about myself. I am frustrated, but we’re all frustrated. We’ve got some great players on this team and we aren’t scoring. Take a look at (Northern Irish forward) Daryl Fordyce — what a quality footballer, and he’s finding it difficult to score in this league.” When Saiko has played this season, he has been primarily used on the left side of the midfield in a 4-4-2 set, which is a big difference from last year, when then-coach Harry Sinkgraven often used him as an attacking midfielder with more of a free role. Saiko, who used to be Edmonton’s go-to guy on set pieces, doesn’t take them anymore. And, the thing for which Saiko’s best known around the league is being able to score from 25 to 30 yards out. We don’t see those long-range strikes anymore. And those shots do more than trouble the keepers; if teams know that Saiko can threaten the goal from well outside the box, it forces the opposition to either send a defender or midfielder to close down the shooting lanes. And that opens up space for FCE’s forwards. “It used to be that I’d get five, maybe six, chances in a game and I’d score one,” he said. “Last year, I was near the league lead in shots. Now I get one chance a game, and if I don’t score, that’s it.” When Saiko plays, he’s on the left, where he won’t get as many direct looks at goal as he did when he was used in a more central role. When a player is coming down the middle, it’s easier to have a crack at goal. But trying to bend one in from left wing, even though Saiko did it last year in a win over Carolina, is a more difficult ask. So, the chances are down because the number of looks at goal is down. “I’m not a natural left winger,” said Saiko. “At least not in a 4-4-2… Last year I was used more as a false striker and, if you look at the goals I’ve scored, they’ve come from the middle of the field. It’s now tough for me to come inside.” On the right side, Neil Hlavaty, usually a central midfielder, has thrived on the right wing, as he’s been able to get balls into the box and he’s taken over as the set-piece taker. Saiko also wants to be able to contribute. He says he’s frustrated to watch the team draw four 1-1 games in a row; he knows had it been able to score two goals in just two of the four games in question, the Eddies would be out in front in the NASL table. “I want to help this team. I am from Edmonton. With the great owner (Tom Fath) we have, I just want to be able to contribute to this team winning games. It’s difficult for me personally. I can’t say that I haven’t put in the work. I have. But we, as a team, don’t score many goals and its frustrating for us, obviously.” Saiko is committed to the city. He just bought a house in Edmonton, so, he’s now got the mortgage and even more ties to the Alberta capital, as if family and friends weren’t enough. He wants to continue to be the face of the FCE franchise. If he does get himself back into the form of the previous two seasons, the Eddies will find the formula to turn the draws into wins.