Buckle up pumpkins; this is a bit of a lengthy one by my standards.
I had considered writing a piece prior to the season opener, but with only match highlights to go on, I just couldn’t bring myself to do any “analysis” without really seeing a ball kicked (not literally I know, but preseason highlights don’t reallllllly count IMO).
I have to say I really like what the Eddies did in the off-season. It started off a little bit depressing, with the departure of Fordyce, but they look to have brought in quite a few Colin Miller Footsoldierstm.
Firstly. Defense. Netan Sansara is, by all accounts, an excellent signing. He has experienced the British game, which already ticks a box for CM. He’s had a bit of a journeyman’s career, but he’s still relatively young (same age as me, so he better be!). Any player who has been captained by any team, let alone a professional one, has a little something intangible as far as I’m concerned, and this element alone had me excited about his arrival. With Watson starting to get up there in age (31), bringing in potential new leaders and professionals is essential to the winning culture CM is trying to build. The cherry on top is that he spent the last two seasons (with Fredrekstad FK) with the other marquee defensive signing, Canadian international Adam Straith.
Straith, the Victoria native, came up through the Whitecaps residency program before heading over to Germany to play for Energie Cottbus in the lower divisions (they bounced between div 2 and 3). He moved up through the ranks to score on his debut for the senior squad and bounced around a little bit in the lower divisions in Germany before joining Sansara at Fredrekstad FK. There were rumours floating around the Voyageurs forum that he might get slotted into a holding midfield role, and sure enough the V’s were bang on.
I didn’t really notice either Straith or Sansara much during the run of play, although for d-men I generally take this as a positive. The only moment that either stood out was a hard-nosed yellow that Sansara received that had me grinning from ear to ear. He won’t be taking much shit, and I like that he wasn’t afraid to be booked right out of the gate.
With the departure of (should have been) league MVP Matt VanOekel, Miller made the right move by bringing in an experienced goalkeeper in Chris Konopka. This should set up a nice battle between Tyson Farago and Nathan Ingram to eventually take over. Both have demonstrated themselves as competent, but with keepers especially it is important to have to earn the starting spot, as opposed to being handed the reins a little prematurely. Can’t applaud this move enough.
In midfield we have the additions of Sabri Khattab and Mauro Eustaquio(although I think you could make the case that Ben Fisk probably still qualifies as a fresh face). Khattab, Norweigan, is pretty much a complete question mark for me at this point, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves to me he shouldn’t get it. Eustaquio comes to us from Ottawa Fury, a fairly young player, perhaps not unlike Shome, who departed via the MLS superdraft in the offseason. Colin Miller emphasized that both new players have good offensive instincts but will need to buy-in to the system in Edmonton. Standard CM, really.
Finally, Miller brought in Dean Shiels as a striker (although he played in midfield against Jaxonville). He has a decent scoring pedigree, including 19 goals for Rangers and 24 for Hibernian in roughly 200 appearances, as well as successful stints with Doncaster Rovers, Kilmarnok and Dundalk. At 31, he’s probably not quite as fleet footed as he once was, but scorers never really seem to forget how to score. Here’s to hoping he’s the wiley veteran poacher that every good squad needs.
Moving on to the Preseason tour, what can I say: The coverage was shit, but hey, the Faths flew 20 men halfway around the world, and this team has almost certainly been haemorrhaging cash from them, so I’ll let them off the hook for it not looking like the World Cup. I would have liked to wake up at 5am to catch the facebook stream, but unfortunately I do have a life that needs occasional attending outside FC Edmonton. I caught the highlights of course, and it looked like they held up pretty well against all of their opposition (Newcastle equipment manager included 😉 ), and despite getting somewhat put to the sword by Stoke, you have to think that playing against what was essentially a side they would field in an early round FA cup match had to have been a good experience for the boys. Stoke might not be Manchester United, but they are still a successful premier league squad. That’s nothing to balk at.
I suppose we should probably talk more about the first match against Jacksonville (named after Andrew Jackson, alright your city is somewhat badass now – although maybe your logo deserves to be a donkey, but this has officially become a wild tangent).
Honestly, it was pretty uneventful, overall. Not in a bad way though. The Eddies definitely held the run of play for most of the first half, and the first half of the second. It’s funny, with all this talk of “draining the swamp” that the eddies had to essentially trudge into said swamp for their first game. I’m sure CM wouldn’t let the boys admit it, but I would be shocked if the humidity were not a factor in this game, and credit to Jax, they took their chance when they got it. But if this is the type of game we are going to see from the Eddies going forward, at least in terms of possession and work rate, I’m optimistic.
Moment of the match (other than the aforementioned Sansara yellow) was probably Watson getting a full on cleat to the groin. I’m not saying he definitely deserved it, but if you’ve watched that guy play you have to wonder if it was payback for a few orge-bops dished out. Guy’s a fucking beauty.
Anyways, this has already been the longest post I hope to ever write(barring a championship perhaps) we can leave my #CanPL Hot taketm for a subsequent word salad.
Cheers folks (insert shit eating grin here) try and have a little Fath.