EDMONTON — After an off-season filled with turmoil and an absolutely crazy start to their 2022 Canadian Premier League season, FC Edmonton feels like they can finally catch their breath and make a big push in their season.
After playing eight games over the course of the first month of the season that had the Eddies flying from coast-to-coast, the team has been able to get some rest and get dialled in as they are set to host Atletico Ottawa on Sunday (2 p.m.) at Clarke Stadium.
“This week (off) has allowed us to reflect and regroup,” said FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“We don’t have everybody back, but we got a few bodies that we were missing last week and that’s a big positive of having eight days between games.”
Because of their hectic schedule, Koch decided to dress a younger lineup against Pacific FC last weekend, and give many of his core group of players some rest. Despite the 2-1 loss, the Eddies had several young players step up and showcase themselves against arguably the top team in the CPL.
“Going into Pacific, who are flying right now, we had to be realists — we were going to go and give it our best shot, but I wanted the biggest positives to see individuals rise in that game,” said Koch.
“I said to my staff, if we had three or four guys that embraced that opportunity, that was going to be a big positive from that game and there were a few of those guys.”
Kelsey Egwu, a 17-year-old defender made his first professional start, and played 90 minutes in his first-ever pro game.
Goalkeeper Darlington Murasiranwa made his first start of the campaign, and was solid in just his fourth professional game.
Forward CJ Smith made his first-career start and didn’t look out of place in the Eddies attack.
Midfielder Wesley Timoteo, who has logged a lot of minutes so far this season, came off the bench and scored his first professional goal.
That experience for the Eddies younger lineup will certainly pay big dividends as the season wears on.
It gave Koch an opportunity to see different players in different situations, and will certainly give him more options.
The Eddies will likely have several of their group of players that Koch and the coaching staff available for Sunday’s match, but Koch has more weapons at his disposal now that he’s seen some of his younger players step up.
“We’re still going to play young, that’s just the nature of our roster, we’ll continue to do that and we’ll embrace that, but I think the fact we didn’t have a mid-week game and the fact we’re not travelling back across the country means that when we go into the game on Sunday, we won’t be at 100 per cent, but we’re going to be much closer to it now,” said Koch.
The Eddies have lost four straight matches after earning three draws in their first four games of the season and sit 0-3-4 and in eighth spot in the league.
With such a young roster and having to build chemistry all season long with so many new faces on the squad, it’s taken some time for FC Edmonton to gel, but one thing they’ve shown so far this season is despite not having earned a win, so far — they’re a tough opponent.
Koch and the coaching staff have done an admirable job keeping the team’s morale up.
“The easier parts of this job comes from when you’re winning,” said Koch.
“When you’re winning, everybody is more positive and everybody is enjoying the ride and can see what comes out from it. The challenging times in this business is when you’re not winning games and how do you stay true to what you want to achieve and how do you keep everybody positive?.”
Atletico Ottawa sits in seventh, and just five points up on the Eddies. Koch and the Eddies know that a win will not just do wonders for their confidence, it will have a major impact on the standings, as they would be in striking distance, and just two points back of four teams, Atletico Ottawa, HFX Wanderers FC, Valour FC and Forge FC.
After a week full of uptempo and competitive training sessions, FC Edmonton looks refreshed, energized and ready to face the challenge that Atletico Ottawa brings forward.
“This week we kind of shifted a bit,” said Koch.
“We’ve focused more on having fun in our training sessions, enjoy being at home and keeping it very positive and uplifting and having lots of competition, making every single day a competition, so the guys can forget about what happened yesterday, and the day before and live in the now.”