Here, by absolutely no request beyond the implicit one in a few Google queries, is my brief recap of the final FC Edmonton friendly of their Vancouver preseason, a 4-1 victory over Gonzaga University at Langley Events Centre.
If you missed it, Edmonton got its goals through Shaun Saiko, Wes Knight, Daryl Fordyce, and Massimo Mirabelli. Gonzaga’s sole marker came on a penalty in the second half after Colin Miller had substituted out his entire starting lineup bar Wes Knight. If anything the 4-1 scoreline flattered Gonzaga: they had next-to-no real chances from open play, were pinned back in their own half the vast majority of the time, and could have lost by a touchdown had the bounces gone Edmonton’s way. The Eddies left a few outrageously good opportunities on the table once they were up by a few and the compete level was flagging a bit.
The starting lineup was, from left to right, Lance Parker in goal, a defense of Lance Laing, Adrian LeRoy, Carlyle Mitchell, and Edson Edward, a midfield of Shaun Saiko, Chris Nurse, Neil Hlavaty (captain), and Wes Knight, and forwards Michael Cox and Daryl Fordyce. Saiko has been listed elsewhere, including The11.ca, as playing a number ten: in my opinion Saiko played as an attacking left winger with more freedom to cut in than he had against the University of British Columbia on Good Friday.
As I mentioned, Gonzaga got creamed, with Edmonton certain to win almost from the first five minutes (though it took half an hour for the first goal). I don’t know how much of a reflection that is on the Zags, and they deserve some benefit of the doubt: that was their third game in three days, following a 2-1 loss against Trinity Western on Friday and a Saturday afternoon 1-0 victory at Simon Fraser. I spoke briefly to Gonzaga head coach Einar Thorarinsson and forgot to ask him how much he’d rotated his lineup over the three games, because I am a professional. At any rate, he was substituting aggressively, NCAA-style, including a few moves in the first half, and his team was overwhelmed and unable to offer much pressure because of either fatigue or simply being out of their depth.
The best goal of the bunch was Fordyce’s, as he hammered home a simply excellent shot from 25 yards. Saiko’s goal, bluntly, reeked: it was from distance but low and slow and only went in because the keeper jumped late and couldn’t get a firm grasp on the ball (although he generated enough unrewarded offense in this game that it might have just been good karma). Knight, who is scoring like a regular Campos now, poked in a rebound off a corner kick with the outside of his boot: very opportunistically done for a player still without a senior professional goal. Mirabelli’s goal in garbage time was a nice shot from a tight angle.
Fordyce, in general, was absolutely first-class. This may be a reflection of his opponents as much as him but no Eddie looked as consistently excellent. In addition to his fine goal, he had what should have been a stunner when he chested down a cross, turned it to his right foot, and struck a magnificent rising volley that was very adroitly saved by the Gonzaga keeper. He did some playmaking, including setting up Michael Cox for the best missed chance of the game (a little flick-on header that Cox got off the Gonzaga central defender and fired into the post; for the first twenty minutes Cox was an unholy terror who traumatized the Gonzaga defenders but was just missing a bit of finish, but afterwards he cooled off). The Zags defense had no answer for Fordyce throughout; his touch was excellent and he showed good linking play with Cox a few times. If he can keep that up in the NASL regular season Edmonton might have a sneakily excellent signing on their hands.
It was a good performance all-round. Knight played well, running hard and looking no worse for wear from an earlier toe injury; he was the only Eddie to go the full ninety. In addition to his goal he tracked back hard on defense, had a few interesting crosses, and won most of his battles for the ball. Carlyle Mitchell was seldom challenged but showed admirable poise the few times he was; the one time Gonzaga got pressure on him while he was in possession he was able to simply turn, hold the Gonzaga attacker off, get the ball outside, then lob a perfect pass up to central midfield. Neil Hlavaty also had a couple good looks at goal and by-and-by-large made the central midfield a no-go area for Gonzaga; he continued the excellent play I saw from him at UBC. And Edson Edward was firey (in all the right ways), aggressive, ran his tail off, and also had a few neat touches. He is the sort of fullback who always wants the ball, and though he’s not quite as effective in possession as Knight (or even Rago) he had a pretty effortless time in defense.
I couldn’t utter a single complaint about the first eleven. Even Adrian LeRoy, whose case I was on against UBC, showed well, keeping the Gonzaga attack entirely in check. The second eleven still largely controlled the game, although by that point it was 3-0 so what does that prove? Mirabelli certainly took his goal well and ran hard down the left wing at all times; Rago was also playing out left, provided the assist to Mirabelli, and didn’t look entirely comfortable but did fine. Most of the young players didn’t show a lot: Mortosti and Sarkaria were mostly distinguished by being pushed off the ball too easily (by men years older than them). Mallan Roberts wasn’t going to be pushed around by anyone but, as against UBC, didn’t get too many chances to show whether he was worth the hype.
The penalty was given away on a soft but a sloppy and hard-to-argue tackle in the box by whichever Eddie was wearing #28 after the second eleven came on. That same Edmonton player was taking no prisoners and borderline dirty throughout his time on the pitch, including absolutely hammering the Gonzaga keeper going up for a cross he had no chance at. I don’t know who the player was; my guess from Google is that it was Yellowknife’s Dillon Torindo, who certainly has a reputation as a tough customer. Anyone worried Edmonton will lack grit and physicality with Chris Kooy gone can breathe a sigh of relief: whoever he was was out to kick ass (and looked perfectly fine in technical terms, not that he had much to do).
On a trivial note, it’s interesting that the teams played on a multi-use artificial turf field when Langley Events Centre includes a number of grass pitches. I wonder if this was Colin Miller’s way of helping the team adjust to Clarke Stadium’s multi-use pitch. The Langley pitch didn’t seem to be great quality, and at one point it looked like Lance Laing tripped over a seam in the turf.
(EDIT: 9:30 PM, April 1: ThiKuBC, who has played there, informs me via Twitter that it is all artificial turf at Langley Events Centre, and incidentally that the field quality is excellent. On the other hand Hosting BC’s website tells us there are three natural grass fields. I’m not too familiar with the Events Centre; I report, you decide!)
(EDIT 2, 7:15 AM, April 2: ThiKuBC and Jake Vendramin via Twitter have mutually come to the conclusion that there are grass pitches up at Langley, even if not the three the Hosting BC website lists! I’m not insane! Well, not for that reason. The errata on this trivial note is now double the length of the actual trivial note.)
Anyway, Edmonton utterly manhandled Gonzaga, an achievement which might be slightly marred by Gonzaga’s tough friendly schedule but which is still encouraging. Fordyce was a cut above even by the standards of that mauling. And after the game Wes Knight made sure to take the time to come chat with his old Vancouver supporters (there were two Wes Knight kits in attendance) while his teammates were fleeing for a shower, because that’s just the sort of guy he is. Edmonton fans are going to love him.
(P.S.: Only semi-related, but if you missed it Paul Hamilton is in training camp with the Carolina Railhawks. Good for him to find a new ride so quickly, but this just has “coming back to haunt the Eddies” written all over it in 72-point Impact.)
 — Sandor, Steven. “FC Edmonton’s final preseason win offers many clues to opening-night starting XI.” The11.ca, April 1, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2013. http://the11.ca/2013/04/01/fc-edmontons-final-preseason-win-offers-many-clues-to-opening-night-starting-xi/.
 — “TWU Men’s Soccer Edges Gonzaga.” IslandSportsNews, March 30, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2013. http://islandsportsnews.net/component/content/article/2-soccer/6428-twu-mens-soccer-edges-gonzaga.
 — Tsumura, Howard. “3.31.13 UNI NOTES: UBC-SFU track, Base-Birds roar, Clan softball sweeps, TWU m-soc wins.” The Province, March 31, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2013. http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/03/31/3-31-13-uni-notes-ubc-sfu-track-base-birds-rally-clan-softball-sweeps-twu-m-soc-wins/.
 — Morris, Neil. “Paul Hamilton, former FC Edmonton defender, joins Carolina RailHawks camp.” IndyWeek, April 1, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2013. http://www.indyweek.com/triangleoffense/archives/2013/04/01/paul-hamilton-former-fc-edmonton-defender-joins-carolina-railhawks-camp.
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