EDMONTON – The late, great Ferenc Puskás, the man for whom FIFA’s goal of the year award is named, used to joke that his right foot was used mainly for standing on. His left foot remains the stuff of legend.
Even though Puskas’s heyday was in a time of hairdos set in place by Brylcreem, one thing hasn’t changed. Naturally left-footed players are still valuable commodities, and getting more left-footed players into the squad was a priority for FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus.
Last season, FCE featured Allan Zebie at left back and Mele Temguia at the left centre-back spot. It wasn’t an ideal set-up, as both players were right footed.
So, this year, fullback Duran Lee, a lefty, was brought in from HFX Wanderers FC. Hanson Boakai, who spent a large chunk of his teenage years with the Eddies in the NASL, returns this season and is, you guessed it, left-footed. Chance Carter, the Edmonton teenager who was in the Whitecaps system, is left-footed.
“We wanted to bring in some left-footed players to balance this roster from right to left,” Paulus told CanPL.ca. “Last year, Mele and Allan did a great job playing on their wrong side. They’re both right-footed players, to ask them to distribute out of the back was difficult.”
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Paulus said that other coaches knew about the Eddies’ Achilles heel (make that, Achilles left heel) last season, and took advantage of that weakness
“Opposing teams would often press us when we had the ball on our left. That was one of the areas we wanted to fix, we’ve done that… We think that our team is more balanced, we’re younger and we seem quicker,” Paulus explained.
Veteran defender/midfielder Ramon Soria was one of the left-footers on the team last year, and Paulus expects him to be put in positions more often this season that allow him to optimize his better side.
In the past, in both NASL and CPL, FCE has used wingers playing on their “off” sides, with right-footed players shuffling off the left wing and vice versa. In the opposing half, this makes sense. Why? Because the attacking player, if he cuts inside, is leading with his shooting foot. But when playing the ball out of the back, it’s more comfortable for the lefty to be on the left side and the righty on the right side
Lee only appeared in eight games last season for Wanderers, but he did play in matches against Edmonton, and Paulus has repeatedly said that he felt the 24-year-old Canadian fullback was the most impressive HFX player he saw in those games.
“When I was in Halifax, I played against Edmonton twice, and Jeff was aware of the kind of player I was,” Lee told CanPL.ca. “But you can’t predict the future, you don’t know what to expect. I didn’t ever expect that I’d come to Edmonton.”
But while Lee said he holds the Wanderers organization in the highest regard, he disagreed with the brass about his development plan. He didn’t see himself as a centre back.
“To get to my highest level, I need to be a left back,” Lee offered.
So, even though Lee said he and the Wanderers talked about a return in 2020, he wanted assurances that he’d be placed in his natural position. And then along came FCE, looking for exactly what Lee was offering.
“I knew from playing them last year, they had a lot of right-footed defenders, that (a left-footer) was something that was missing,” Lee stated.
In getting what he wants, though, Lee knows that there will be pressure. If he plays in what he thinks is his ideal spot, he won’t have excuses.
“I like the pressure. I want the pressure. I want to be held at a high level,” Lee said.
FC Edmonton is scheduled to play against a group of Saskatchewan selects in late March, and to spend part of the coming month in a camp in Langley, B.C. But the team has stated that it will be making updates to its training camp schedule within the next day or so in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Alberta government announced Thursday afternoon that all public events of over 250 people are suspended in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. FC Edmonton is not slated to play a regular-season home match until April 18. But the team did have plans to stage a friendly at Clarke Stadium in the first weekend of April.