The 2015 season was a tale of ups and downs for FC Edmonton. A slow start to the Spring Season, coupled with significant injuries ultimately cost the team a playoff spot.
One year later, the team is confident of a significantly different outcome in 2016.
Edmonton is not taking any chances as it armed its squad with more experienced players during the offseason. Head coach and technical director Colin Miller is hoping that this is the formula that will lead to playoff qualification.
“Every pre-season we start with a goal,” Miller told SBI. “That’s why we’ve gone with a slightly more experienced team this year. The guys know the standards, they know now there’s at least two players in each position at the club, and it’s certainly the best squad that we’ve had.
“With a bit of luck, and without some disastrous injuries we’ve had over the last couple of years, maybe we have a bit of luck that way as well, so we’ll be in the mix this season again.”
Edmonton was fighting for a postseason spot until the very end of the regular season. Whether the new-look Eddies can actually qualify this time around is the question every fan wants answered.
Here is a closer look at FC Edmonton for the 2016 season:
2016 FC EDMONTON SEASON PREVIEW
2015 FINISH: Overall – 9-8-13, 35 points (7th in Combined Standings); Spring Season – 2-3-5, 9 points (10th in Spring Season); Fall Season – 7-5-8, 26 points (5th in Fall Season)
HEAD COACH: Collin Miller, fourth season
KEY ACQUISITIONS: Nik Ledgerwood, Adam Eckersley, Jason Plumhoff, Pape Diakite
KEY DEPARTURES: Lance Laing
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: Nik Ledgerwood. The Canadian international will be a key player for the Eddies this season and brings a wealth of experience to the team. He will primarily start in midfield and can operate in a box-to-box role, but Ledgerwood can also play right back.
PRESSURE IS ON: Whoever replaces Lance Laing in the starting XI. There are a wealth of candidates who can operate in a wide role in midfield, among the are such as Dustin Corea and Jason Plumhoff. Laing was Edmonton’s co-leading scorer with eight goals and recorded more assists (seven) than any other Eddies player. Therefore, the Jamaican’s replacement will have a tough task in 2016.
The Eddies did not lose too many important players, but losing Laing was a big blow for Edmonton.
Miller tried to keep the 28-year-old with the club. He made a “very good offer” to Laing, but he ultimately chose to sign with Minnesota United ahead of what could be its final NASL season before moving to Major League Soccer.
While the former Canadian international is disappointed to see Laing moving on, he is confident that other players can fill in and perform admirably for the club.
“I see a number of players doing that,” Miller said. “Dustin Corea is a solid player for the El Salvador national team, so that is not a bad replacement for [Laing]. Gustavo, the Brazilian that we signed, Pablo Cruz, who is now the fittest that he’s ever been in his career, and Jason Plumhoff can also play in the wide areas.
“There’s some serious competition for places, and that’s just one area of the park we are talking about, so I don’t think about Lance anymore, he’s not with us, those days are gone. We’ll just have to stop him when we play against him.”
The competition for places should boost Edmonton on both sides of the pitch. Even though Edmonton narrowly missed the playoffs a year ago, it still impressed in the Canadian Championship last year thanks to organization and stingy defending.
The NASL outfit nearly forced extra time against the eventual champions, the Vancouver Whitecaps, in the semifinals. Matias Laba struck in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time to secure the win for Vancouver.
However, despite those strong showings against the Whitecaps, Edmonton was still ranked in the middle of the table in terms of goals scored and allowed.
The signing of Adam Eckersley gives the back line more experience, so that area of the pitch should not be an issue for the club in 2016. The attack is the real question mark.
As long as Daryl Fordyce, Edmonton’s other co-leader in goals last year, is provided with quality service from wide areas, then the Canadian club has a chance to be a playoff team this season.
—————- Van Oekel—————-