FC Edmonton hopes to build off win over Winnipeg in team’s first-ever CPL home opener
FC Edmonton’s players and coaches admit it took the team a while to settle down in their first-ever Canadian Premier League game last week but they won and are now looking to build off that performance this weekend when they play their first-ever home opener since joining the CPL.
The soccer team will do battle with Pacific FC, a club based out of the Victioria area in B.C.
“It was nice to put the first one away,” coach Jeff Paulus said of the team’s 2-1 win over Valour FC in Winnipeg last weekend. “It was nice for the players to just see the level of play in this league, especially for the old NASL (North American Soccer League) guys.
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“I think it was good to play in Winnipeg in front of 10,000 [fans], so that was the nervy game hopefully,” he added. “Now we get to come home, we get to be amongst our family and friends and I think the nerves will be out.
“I think we know what to expect now, we know the pace of the league, so hopefully we have a much more calm performance.”
Among the players who impressed last week were 22-year-old goalkeeper Connor James, a former player with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“I was happy with my performance,” James said at practice on Thursday. “It was a bit of a difficult set of circumstances… [for] our first game.
“I think that the team had a little bit of nerves going into the first half. We had our backs against the wall for a bit of the first half but luckily I was alright and came out with a couple of saves, kept us in it early on, and then let the team do our thing, so I was fortunate to get a ton of support from the team with those two goals and we ended up coming out with a 2-1 win.”
Paulus said he’s impressed with both James and the team’s other goalkeeper, Dylon Powley.
“I’ve known this kid (James) for a long time and he never fails to impress me,” he said. “We’ve got two very good young keepers here and we’ve got high expectations for both.
“They were given the chance for a reason and Connor’s validated that.”
FC Edmonton hopes to have a familiar face back in the lineup for kickoff at Clarke Field on Sunday.
Forward Tomi Ameobi, who is also the team’s captain, had previously made 107 appearances with FC Edmonton before the team joined the CPL. He is dealing with a nagging injury and Paulus said he has a 50-50 chance of playing.
“[I’m] raring to go,” Ameobi said. “Obviously, [I] didn’t play the first game but [am] looking to be involved on Sunday.
“We know that Pacific FC lost last night 3-0 so they’ll be looking to bounce back, so I think the main thing for us will be the focus come Sunday… we’re at home in front of our home crowd — first home game of the season — (we need) the courage to go out there and impose ourselves on the game early so that what’s we’ve been working on all week.”
The 30-year-old said he’s excited to be back with FC Edmonton and playing in the new league.
“In some respects it feels like I never left, but at the same time, it’s basically a whole new team so it’s been awesome,” Ameobi said.
Paulus said getting on a roll early in the season will be very helpful for the team.
“In a league of parity, I think you need to get points early on and have teams chase you, and if you can get six points up on a team in this league… It’s very difficult to catch you all of a sudden,” the coach said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Clarke Field on Sunday.
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