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FC Edmonton forges ahead with plan to overhaul team’s playing style despite delayed start to CPL season

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WATCH ABOVE: (From April 11, 2020) The Canadian Premier League was looking to build on a massive debut season last year but that has, of course, been put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis. FC Edmonton though is keeping its hops up and is still in heavy preparation mode for a season. Quinn Phillips reports. – Apr 11, 2020

FC Edmonton was supposed to kick off its second season in the Canadian Premier League over the weekend but instead, of taking to the pitch, the soccer team’s coach and players were taking to the keyboard as the start of the new campaign has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not training obviously, but I’m doing everything I would be if I wasn’t on the field at this time of year,” FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus told Global News. “I’m building up video sessions [and] we’re changing the way that we’re playing, so I do online training sessions with the team.

“We have those three times a week, so I spend probably about — I don’t know– six hours a day in video work right now.”

READ MORE: Canadian Premier League season will not start on time for 2020 season: commissioner

The Eddies’ training camp had barely started when the novel coronavirus put its on-field efforts at a playing style makeover on hold.

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“We had a very good start to camp,” Paulus said. “I mean, the eight sessions we got in, we were very happy with the players.

“I think the players were very understanding of buying into our new style of play and it was looking really good.”

FC Edmonton goalkeeper Dylon Powley indicated there was a positive energy among his teammates when camp started and that the team is eager to embrace news ideas Paulus wants to implement.

“Everybody was really chomping at the bit to get back into it,” Powley said.

“When we came back, everybody was so excited and so upbeat and you could just tell there was a difference in the locker-room already even from last year.”

Paulus said since the team’s training camp was cut short, he has spent the time search for video of other soccer teams who already employ an approach to playing that is “very similar to how we envision our team playing with the players we have.”

“[Our team has had] great discussions online,” he said. “The players are buying into it.”

READ MORE: International soccer might not resume until 2021 due to COVID-19: top FIFA official

Saturday should have marked the start of the CPL’s second season, and had it not been for the ongoing public health crisis, would have featured a match between FC Edmonton and Pacific FC at Westhills Stadium on Vancouver Island.

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“At the moment, we are working through different scenarios [regarding] when we might be able to start up again,” CPL Commissioner David Clanachan said on the league’s website. “The reality is, we’re dealing with this literally in real time.

“This is not something that is happening where it’s changing weekly. This is changing daily and hourly at times.”

Clanachan added that the league is planning “for all contingencies for when the time is right.”

“The more we all do our part, the sooner we can get back to normal, and get to what we all want: CPL soccer in a safe and healthy environment.”

On Monday, the league announced steps being taken to address the financial fallout of the CPL season not starting on time. It said players will have 25 per cent of their contracts deferred and that coaches, technical staff, and club and league employees will take pay reductions as well “in order to keep as many people as possible employed.”

“Despite our best efforts, we are now having to make adjustments to our operations, including the wages of our hard-working and passionate players, coaches and employees,” Clanachan said.

Powley said while he’s waiting to get back onto the pitch and keeping soccer balls out of his team’s goal, he and his teammates are making the most of their online training sessions.

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“We’ll go over all the points together,” he said. “Everybody will toss in their two cents about it.

“It’s actually been very productive.”

FC Edmonton’s training staff have also been leading workouts via video conferencing online three to four times a week. Powley said he and other players have been getting creative with how they train under the circumstances.

“A lot of us are filling up water bottles and putting them in backpacks to help add some weight to a squat or something like that,” he said. “So it’s little things like that where, when this is all done, we’re going to laugh about it.

“It’s also helping everybody stay connected and put a smile on our faces for even an hour.”

In 2019, FC Edmonton finished in third place in the CPL’s spring season and in sixth place in the fall season.

During the off-season, the CPL said it was scrapping its spring and fall split-seasons, moving to a single-table format in 2020 that will see the top three clubs qualify for the playoffs, with the standings leader getting a bye to the championship final.

READ MORE: FC Edmonton re-signs star centre back Amer Didic for 2020 CPL soccer season

Over the off-season, FC Edmonton made a number of move including re-signing star centre back Amer Didic and bringing in Swedish midfielder Erik Zetterberg and Peruvian winger Raúl Tito.

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–With files from Global News’ Quinn Phillips and The Canadian Press’ Neil Davidson