Opportunity awaits for young Eddies to make their mark
Terique Mohammed has been a physical and sturdy presence for FC Edmonton so far this season. SHERRI LACASSE PHOTO
Terique Mohammed has been a physical and sturdy presence for FC Edmonton so far this season.

Jason Hills
FC Edmonton Communications

VICTORIA — Opportunity knocks for FC Edmonton this week.
It may be another week, and another big challenge as the young squad goes on the road to face Pacific FC, but there will be several new faces in the lineup when they take on the defending Canadian Premier League champions on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT at Starlight Stadium.

“We’re actually going to make some changes this weekend,”  said FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“We’re going to have to give some players an opportunity that haven’t played so far, just because we’ve been playing so many games. And in many respects, our season will start when we get back from this trip.”

Koch’s decision to make several lineup changes this week is two-fold. He wants to give his younger players a chance to see what they can do on the pitch, but also give his core group of players, who have seen significant amount of playing time over the first month of the season, some rest.
The Eddies have played seven matches in the first month of the season, and endured a hectic travel schedule. The rest is needed.
The Eddies have had several players log big minutes through the first portion of the season. Goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla, as well as defenders Luke Singh, Cale Loughrey and Nyal Higgins have played every minute this season.
Others have also done some heavy lifting, including the likes of Tobias Warschewski, Gabriel Bitar as well.

“I thought the group started the season well and then to be brutally honest, the schedule, we played seven games in a month, it absolutely caught up to us,” said Koch.
“That’s not an excuse by any means, but that’s the reality. From April 10 to May 10, we played seven games and it was hard, because we have a smaller squad than everybody else.
“There are a core group of players that have played a lot and they are battered, they are bruised, they are beaten up and I don’t blame them because they’ve given everything they can for the cause.”

The Eddies had a solid start to the season. They earned back-to-back draws, and then after dropping their first match of the season, returned home to face Pacific, and earned another gritty draw.
But since then, they have hit a rough patch, dropping their last three matches. Pacific will be a daunting task, as they sit in first place in the CPL standings, but this will be a chance for some of their younger players to make their mark against the league’s reigning champs.

“Pacific are going to be fresh, they’re going to be hungry, they’re playing on their own pitch,” said Koch.
“The champions are flying high, and we know it’s going to be a tough game, but it doesn’t really change our business going forward.

“We’re trying to push a team forward and help individual players develop as much as possible, so we’re excited. It’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’re ready to embrace it.”

FC Edmonton is a very young squad, who are learning a lot of big lessons throughout the early portion of the season.

In their last three losses, it’s been a matter of competing and battling for a complete 90 minutes.
“We had a chat with our players (Thursday) morning and everybody can see that, to a man, there is immense character in our group,” said Koch.
“When they get punched in the face, they are going to respond. What we need to work on though, is that it should not take us getting punched in the face to get a reaction. I think part of that is a little bit of inexperience a little bit of immaturity and something we have to work on as a group.
“We have immense respect for the players that we have. These guys are working incredibly hard to get better every single day. Part of the biggest challenge for us is that we have very few mature, older players that can provide leadership, just because of the structure that we’re having to work with right now.”