Friday evening’s matchup against the Fury in Ottawa presents a huge opportunity for FC Edmonton. For the first time in a while, the Eddies did not need to prepare for midweek game and could solely focus on league play. Edmonton’s run in the Voyageurs Cup brought a lot of excitement (and heartbreak) for fans, but had a bit of a negative impact on their spring season play.
The fixture congestion has forced Edmonton to use their depth, regardless of their willingness to do so. Watson, Moses, Zebie, Edward, Granitto, Ameobi, Laing, Jonke and Van Oekel have all picked up minor injuries that forced Miller and Paulus to test their bench. For the most part they have seen a bunch of players rise up to the challenge and it’s starting to appear that letting in early goals has become a thing in the past.
Heading into the weekend, Edmonton is leading the NASL in goal scoring, thanks to a strong team effort. And that does not include their record setting six goal performance over both legs V-Cup play against Ottawa. On the flip side, the Fury are last in goals for but have been putting together a series of strong defensive efforts. The last time they have allowed more than one goal has been a month ago against FC Edmonton in their second Cup leg.
Edmonton will likely be without their star striker Tomi Ameobi in this game though. In Sunday’s win he picked up an ankle injury and was seen later that day with crutches and a boot on the ankle. He’s been listed as day-to-day, but it’s hard to imagine the team pushing him to start and risk making this injury more severe. This does give the big Canadian Frank Jonke to come in and get his game going though. He had a quality chance against Atlanta and has been frustrating defenders to taking fouls against him. Also questionable is who plays keeper now. Smits had a solid first game of the year against the Silverbacks and was named man of the match. However, his ball distribution wasn’t what we’ve seen from Van Oekel, who was out with injury but should be ready for selection this week.
As mentioned above, getting most of a week to prepare for a match should be a huge boost for Edmonton. They should be able to start a very strong lineup sans Ameobi. The Eddies have been developing great offensive chemistry that has been getting huge contributions from everyone on the pitch. A rested backline should be able to hold back a weak Fury attack, regardless who starts in goal.
Getting all three points will important for FC Edmonton this week. It’s their first game on an 18 day road trip to close out the spring season, with games against Indy and Tampa Bay after Ottawa. It could also be the last game for Lance Laing until late July, as he’s been named to Jamaica’s Copa America preliminary roster. All teams have to trim their teams down to 23 by Monday, so we’ll know Laing’s status by then. If he does make the cut, he’ll also be on their Gold Cup squad which immediately follows Copa America.