Spotlight: FC Edmonton’s championship debut

Debutant FC Edmonton may have lost its two matches in the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, but it has prospered from its experience against the two-time national champions.

Debutant FC Edmonton may have lost its two matches in the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, but it has prospered from its experience against the two-time national champions.

“We did come away with the losses, but the matches gave us some confidence..knowing that we can play at a high level,” said FC Edmonton captain Chris Kooy.

FC Edmonton was the expansion team in this year’s edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. It played two matches in the home-and-away semi-final stage, falling 0:3 and 0:1 to Toronto FC on 27 April and 4 May.

Since its cup elimination, however, FC Edmonton has won four points in its two league matches – all on the road. The team had lost four-straight matches including league action before winning 2:0 over Atlanta Silverbacks on 7 May and pulling off a dramatic 1:1 draw (in added time) with FC Tampa Bay on 11 May.

Captain Kooy credits team management for the team’s strong start in the NASL. The team has posted three wins, one draw and two losses in six matches, sitting third in league standings through 11 May. The team’s next match is 23 May against NSC Minnesota Stars at home.

“I think they have done a good job to keep it as local as possible,” said Kooy. “Lots of us have played with or against each other for the last five to 10 years. So we are all well known to each other.”

In FC Edmonton’s two Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches, the team dressed 22 players, 16 of whom were Canadian. Of those 16 Canadians, 11 of them were from Alberta: six come from Edmonton, four come from Calgary, and one comes from Lethbridge.

By comparison, the three other established Nutrilite Canadian Championship teams – Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Impact Montréal – combined to dress only 12 Canadians in the semi-final stage.

Kooy is one of the Calgary kids. He was a USL First Division player in 2004 with the Calgary Mustangs. He has otherwise spent much of the past decade with the Calgary Callies, the senior amateur team that won Challenge Trophy national titles in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Kooy’s Callies coach was Dave Randall, now an assistant coach to Harry Sinkgraven with FC Edmonton. Randall actually led the Callies to four Challenge Trophy national titles, including a first in 1999. Randall helped bring Kooy and André Duberry (a two-time Challenge Trophy winner) to FC Edmonton.

“I think the owners have done a tremendous job getting us out in the city,” said Kooy. “The exposure for us to get into the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in our first year was great.”

FC Edmonton will play in the eight-team North American Soccer League from April to September (along with Impact Montréal). Each team is scheduled to play 28 matches (four against each opponent). The top-six teams make the playoffs, with teams three through eight in the opening round while teams one and two await an opponent for the semi-final stage.

As for the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will play in the championship final this coming 18 and 25 May. The first leg is 18 May in Vancouver (Empire Field, 22.00 ET / 19.00 PT) while the second leg is 25 May in Toronto (BMO Field, 20.00 ET / 17.00 PT). Both matches will be broadcast live in high definition on Rogers Sportsnet.

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