Last Sunday’s home opener for FC Edmonton started almost as disastrous as the season opener in Jacksonville. Had it not been for a stellar outing for Matt Van Oekel, it could have just as easily been 3-0 after the first half just like the week before. Edmonton’s inability to deal with a cold, very windy day was disturbing. On more than a few occasions, the backline watched the ball soar over their heads, and had poor communication for Van Oekel that created some very nervous moments for Eddies fans. For team that started the season with “Snow Bowl” aspirations, it’s a problem that needs to fix itself immediately if they want to keep pace with the rest of the league.
Sunday’s match will be another huge test for Edmonton’s backline. Thankfully the wind will not be an issue, but it will be another cooler match. It will be interesting to see how the Fort Lauderdale Strikers react, given they had to deal with a flight delay that caused them to arrive late Friday and only have a mediocre Saturday to acclimatize to the conditions. But with the book already being written on Edmonton early in the season, expect the Strikers to come out hard and fast in an attempt to catch the home side on their heels.
Expect Van Oekel to get his third straight start after last week’s performance. Don’t feel too bad about John Smits though, who should probably get some midweek action against the Ottawa Fury in the Voyageurs Cup match. Edward, Moses, Watson and Roberts will likely get another shot to come together as a group. With an appearance on Team of the Week, Laing will return on the left side as should Nyassi on the right, whose run late the first half ended in a cross for the tying goal. Jones and Raudales should return in the middle, as their ability to control and distribute the ball has been one of the few strengths this Eddies team has had so far. Up front there should be some changes. Jonke has done well and doesn’t deserve the criticism some fans have directed his way, but he hasn’t been matched up with anyone who has been able to play to his strengths. Potentially Ameobi could get his first start and both attackers could create a lot of chaos by using their size against a smallish Strikers backline.
The matchup on Sunday is only Edmonton’s third game of the season, but it can almost be called a must win if they want any shot at the Spring title. Only seven games remain after this weekend until the midseason break and next week’s bye won’t help the Eddies catch up any ground either.