|FC Edmonton has to beat Toronto FC by at least three goals in order to advance in Nutrilite competition. (Perry Nelson, Edmonton Sun)
Harry Sinkgraven has a lot of work to do.
After a promising start to the North American Soccer League season, the head coach of FC Edmonton has seen his team out-scored 10-0 in their last three games.
That includes a disappointing 5-0 loss to the Montreal Impact in their league home opener on Sunday at Foote Field, and a 3-0 loss to Toronto FC in the first leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship encounter last Wednesday.
Heading into the return game against TFC this Wednesday at BMO Field in Toronto, Sinkgraven knows another lopsided loss could be damaging psychologically to a young team trying to make its way through its inaugural professional season.
“I think we created a number of scoring chances in those losses,” Sinkgraven said. “I think if we had not been able to generate any chances, then I would be more concerned.
“I thought through the first 25 minutes in the first game against Toronto, we played well and we had good organization throughout the field. But then, after the red card it got a lot tougher. This will be a new game, it’ll be 11 against 11 and we want to do better. We want to show that the first game was not a typical result.”
FC Edmonton will be without the services of midfielder Shaun Saiko for the return leg in Toronto. Saiko picked up an automatic red card for his two-footed tackle on TFC midfielder Oscar Cordon in the first game.
It left the hosts a man short for over 70 minutes of the contest and essentially sealed their fate in the four-team, Canadian tournament.
“We know that being down 3-0 to an MLS team going into Toronto, it’s going to be hard for us to go into the next round,” Sinkgraven said. “What we want to do, is show that we can play better than we did in the first game. The first game was not a great result for us and we think we are a better team than that.”
The loss at home to TFC means that FC Edmonton needs to win by at least three goals in order to advance to the final. It’s a tough chore in what is one of the most intimidating atmospheres in North American soccer. TFC has conceded three goals just once at home this season.
Playing against a team that consistently sells out its 20,000-seat stadium, it’s expected to be the largest audience FC Edmonton will play in front of all season.
“Playing in front of a big crowd can be inspiring, even if you are not the home team,” Sinkgraven said. “It’s a big challenge, but if you want to grow as a team, you have to be up for a challenge like this.”
FC Edmonton is expected to field its strongest lineup on Wednesday, despite having the odds stacked against them.
They’ll face a TFC side expected to rest some of their first-string players due to the comfortable opening-leg win.
“You always want to win every game you play and you always want to try to dress your best lineup,” Sinkgraven said. “But we do have a lot of games this season and we have a lot of games coming up, so it will be a challenge.”
Despite losing their last two league games, FC Edmonton is still in the thick of the NASL standings and in good position to claim one of the six playoff spots in the eight-team league.
FC Edmonton continues its league schedule on Saturday when they visit the Atlanta Silverbacks. Their road trip continues in Tampa Bay next Wednesday before returning home to host the same opponents on May 31.
“We know we’re a young team and the new kids on the block,” Sinkgraven said. “We have to go out every game and put in our best effort. It doesn’t matter what happened in your previous game, whether you win or loss, you still have to give it your all the next time around.”