FCE eliminated from NASL playoffs

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:09 AM ET

It was a tough way to end what was otherwise a good first year.

Despite watching his FC Edmonton club lose 5-0 to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday in Florida, owner Tom Fath was happy with what the team accomplished in their inaugural North America Soccer League season.

The start-up professional club won 10 of its 28 matches, finished fifth in the eight-team league, qualified for the playoffs and developed a small, but loyal following.

“To be finishing the year in the playoffs is great,” said Fath. “But what was also exciting was that earlier in the year we were up as high as second.

“To have been doing so well on the field at that time was very exciting as well.”

Fath and a group of local supporters gathered at The Pint, a pub just off Whyte Avenue, to watch FC Edmonton play its first playoff game.

The group did not have a lot to cheer for as the local club was under pressure from the onset with the Strikers looking to make the most of their home-field advantage.

However, it wasn’t until the last minute of the first half that they were able to score as Brian Shiver’s shot took a deflection and rolled agonizingly past FC Edmonton goalkeeper Rein Baart.

In the second half, the roof caved in on FC Edmonton as Abe Thompson doubled Fort Lauderdale’s lead a minute after the restart.

Eight minutes later Shriver added his second goal of the night put the Strikers up 3-0.

Thompson converted a header to increase the lead and then completed his hat-trick 13 minutes from the end, giving the Strikers a convincing victory.

They’ll now move on to face the Puerto Rico Islanders in the league semifinal. The NSC Minnesota Stars, who upset FC Tampa Bay 1-0 Saturday, face the Carolina RailHawks in the other semifinal.

Despite the loss, Fath and the FC Edmonton supporters were proud of their club.

“We were able to make it to the playoffs with a group where no two players have been playing together for more than two years,” said Fath. “We just played friendly games last year. I’m looking to build on what we accomplished this year and move on to next year.

“What’s also exciting is that we made the playoffs with 20 out of 29 players being Canadian, with 14 Albertans. I think that’s saying something to the talent we have here. We are building something here and all we know is that we’re going to be successful.”

Having invested a lot of time and money into bringing professional soccer back to a city where it has failed in the past, Fath is optimistic about the future.

The goal heading into the year was to challenge for a playoff spot, which FC Edmonton did. They fared better than Canada’s other entry in the league, the Montreal Impact, who are moving on to play in Major League Soccer next season.

Along with continuing to build their fan base for the future, Fath is also looking at options for a soccer-specific stadium that his team would be able to call home.

The club currently plays out of Foote Field, a facility owned by the University of Alberta.

“It’s too hard a field with the turf and it’s too narrow for our style of play,” Fath said. “We need our own stadium. We’re working on that and in a couple of years that’s where we’d like to be, is in our own stadium.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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