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FC Edmonton has big hopes for goalkeeper Connor James

WATCH ABOVE: As FC Edmonton gets set to play its home opener at Clarke Field on Sunday, Kevin Karius takes a closer look at Connor James, the team’s goalkeeper who impressed in their match in Winnipeg last weekend.

For a goalkeeper, he may be small in stature but FC Edmonton has big hopes for Connor James in their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League.

“I’ve known this kid for a long time and he never fails to impress me,” Jeff Paulus, the soccer team’s coach, said on Thursday. “We’ve got two very good young keepers here and we’ve got high expectations for both.

“[James is] brave as a lion. He’s quick off the line [and] he just reads the game very well and he’s a good leader in the back, so this is his time to shine at the moment.”

James is no stranger to the soccer scene in Edmonton. The 22-year-old is a former player with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he spent five seasons and left as the Canada West leader in career matches played, wins and clean sheets.

“It’s definitely a jump,” James said when asked about the difference between playing the sport at the university level and now as a professional. “But I have the fortunate experience to have been with this FC Edmonton team when we were in the NASL (North American Soccer League) through several summers, so I’ve been around the pro environment.”

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James impressed his coaches and teammates last weekend with a five-save performance in his CPL debut. He played well in FC Edmonton’s 2-1 win over Valour FC in front of nearly 10,000 fans in Winnipeg.

“I got an early touch on the ball and once I had the ball in my hands, that kind of settled me in,” he said of the match. “I understood, ‘I’m in this game and it’s no problem.'”

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

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While James is 6’0″ tall, he realizes that’s actually not an imposing frame to work with as a professional goalkeeper.

“That’s one thing that I’ve always kind of had to deal with as a goalkeeper playing soccer,” he said.

“You’re expected to be 6’4″ [or] 6’5″ [or] 6’6″ and I’m 6’0” so there’s things that you have to do to try to compensate.

“One of those things is try to make sure that your feet are really quick and you can move around the net… those big guys can just take one step and cover half the net (but) I may need to take a couple of quick steps and then jump off and cover the net.”

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READ MORE: FC Edmonton hopes to build off win over Winnipeg in team’s first-ever CPL home opener

Watch below: FC Edmonton is preparing for its home opener against Pacific FC on Sunday.

James is expected to get the start when FC Edmonton plays its home opener at Clarke Field on Sunday but says he is impressed with the other keeper the team has, Dylon Powley.

“I think that had Dylon been playing (in the season opener), he would have done just as well,” James said. “I think the two of us have a good dynamic and I think that the support that we give each other really allows us to perform well in the game.”

FC Edmonton’s home opener against Pacific FC is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Clarke Field on Sunday.

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