FC Edmonton fired up for new era of footie in Canadian Premier League: coach

Click to play video 'FC Edmonton prepares for CPL debut on Saturday' FC Edmonton prepares for CPL debut on Saturday
WATCH ABOVE: FC Edmonton is going through a few final days of training before the team makes its Canadian Premier League debut in Winnipeg this weekend. Kevin Karius has the details.

FC Edmonton‘s Canadian Premier League debut in Winnipeg this weekend will mark a fresh start for the team in a new soccer league aimed at taking the sport to new heights in this country.

“You look at kind of the demographics of Canada and we are a footballing nation based on the demographics of where our society comes from,” FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus said as his team practised at the Edmonton Soccer Dome on Wednesday. “This is a footballing country, but [it’s] not really given the chance to compete with obviously NHL and CFL.

“This league will change that.”

Paulus has been with the team since it was in the North American Soccer League before it suspended operations in 2017. But last summer, soccer enthusiasts in Alberta’s capital learned FC Edmonton would rise from the ashes. It’s now one of seven teams who will compete in the upstart CPL.

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READ MORE: FC Edmonton officially joins Canadian Premier League

Watch below: Some Global News videos about FC Edmonton.

Paulus said his team’s players are chomping at the bit to get the season underway.

“[Training camp has been] too long I would say and we’ve only had intersquads (games) the last couple of weeks here and unfortunately, we’ve had some games cancelled on us that we didn’t get the chance to play so they’re frustrated, the players are anxious,” he said. “You can only kick each other so many times and now they’re starting to get a bit at themselves.”
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READ MORE: FC Edmonton makes 1st international signing in South Korean midfielder

Watch below: (From May 3, 2019) After a long training camp, FC Edmonton is ready to kick of its inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League against Valour FC this weekend. Kevin Karius has more.

Click to play video 'FC Edmonton ready to kickoff its CPL season against Valour FC' FC Edmonton ready to kickoff its CPL season against Valour FC
FC Edmonton ready to kickoff its CPL season against Valour FC

A challenge posed by coaching in a brand-new league is a lack of familiarity with the other teams and how they play, Paulus said.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” he added. “I think it’s exciting to see how every team shapes itself up to want to play football — I think that’s going to lend to the league that we all have that little bit of a different flair to our mentality.”

FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus speaks to reporters on May 1, 2019.
FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus speaks to reporters on May 1, 2019. Global News

All other teams will have kicked off their seasons by the time FC Edmonton takes on Valour FC at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg on Saturday.

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“We’re the last game… so I love that,” Paulus said.

“We’re lucky because Winnipeg plays tonight so I’ll get to scout them.”

Listen below: A couple of FC Edmonton players appear on 630 CHED’s Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins on Wednesday.

Paulus also said he’s familiar with some of the other team’s coaches so he will already have an idea of what type of approaches their teams will take when playing the beautiful game.

While it’s not yet clear how many local players will start for FC Edmonton on Saturday, Paulus said his team has made a point of seeking out local talent.

“I think when you have a local player that wants to play in front of friends and family and also in front of the coaches that they’ve grown up with… I think that that will add something to the team… passion, emotion that they’ll bring,” he said.

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“[But] at the end of the day, they have to earn their minutes.”

Paulus said the CPL’s formation also comes at a critical time for talented young Canadian players to help give them a push to make the national team and help Team Canada be competitive at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will take place in cities across North America, including in Canada.

“At FC Edmonton, our goal is to get these young players here — you know, we’ve got two 17-year-old players right now — so our goal is to get them in this club, have them play, give them minutes, expose them to the game as a professional and then move them out,” he said. “We want to move these players to higher levels and that’s part of our model and it works for everybody.

“It works for the player because they’re going to continue their growth as a professional athlete, they’ll make higher levels of the game, and then it helps us as a club because if we’re developing players that can make it to the next level, then we’re probably winning games with those players as well.”

Listen below: (From April 28, 2019) The Canadian Premier League is discussed on Global News Radio’s The Alberta Morning News.

READ MORE: FC Edmonton adds 5 additional players to Canadian Premier League roster

Paulus was asked Wednesday if he feels any added pressure to win the team’s CPL debut on Saturday because the game is also one of several that factors into determining if the team goes to the CONCACAF League, which acts as a qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Champions League.

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“To be quite honest, I’m not even thinking of CONCACAF,” the former coach of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s men’s soccer team said. “We’re trying to win this league and if we get to CONCACAF, we want to do it but we want to do it winning the Canadian championship.”

READ MORE: FC Edmonton hires former Canadian international Lars Hirschfeld as goalie coach

FC Edmonton’s home opener will take place at Clarke Field when the team takes on Pacific FC on May 12.