Edmonton FC off to an embarrassing start

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

EDMONTON - It is said that you only have one chance for a first impression.

Well, FC Edmonton had two.

And they blew them both.

It was one thing to lose Shaun Saiko to a red card in the 24th minute of the Nutrilite game against Toronto FC Wednesday at Commonwealth Stadium. Playing 10 men against 11 in a game against a team from Major League Soccer, at least they could tell themselves it could have been a lot more competitive than the eventual 3-0 result.

But Sunday night in the home opener of their existence in the new North American Soccer League, they had all 11 -- including four of them at the back in a train wreck -- and were down 3-0 by the 36th minute against a team which had scored only one goal in the previous 360 minutes.

A totally embarrassed Edmonton FC then lost its keeper to a red card with no substitutions left and had to play a midfielder in goal and lost this one 5-0 to a team in their own league.

"Have I ever lost a home opener in my career? No!" said head coach Harry Sinkgraven.

What he said next ...

"You may be surprised to hear me say this but soccer-wise, we were better than our opponent."

That incredible statement was followed by damning his team as a pack of pansies.

"We lost all the battles.

"When you play a physical team you have to battle. You have to win the battles.

"We're too nice.

"When you go into a game like this you need to put a knife between your teeth," he said.

Instead they had a long stemmed flower between their teeth.

The game was played under the watchful eye of NASL commissioner David Downs, who was impressed with the game presentation and the scene in the bandbox-sized stadium but couldn't help but cringe the way the local side failed to provide a crowd of 2,651 in the 3,500 seat venue anything to cheer about.

"I expected a closer game," said Downs.

"I'd been fortunate to see all three FC Edmonton games on the road and this is not their finest hour," he said after the first 45 minutes in which Ali Gerba scored two and Anthony Legall the other.

The only goal of the second half came when Edmonton's Dutch keeper took a red card in the 83rd minute and midfielder Kyle Yamada put on the big gloves. He faced Nevio Pizzolitto unsuccessfully on a penalty shot and gave up another goal to Idriss Ech Chergui in the 90th.

Playing in a hard-to-find, tucked away, small stadium with a serious shortage of parking, FC Edmonton had no chance to match last week's Montreal home opener of 12,060, Ft. Lauderdale's 6,402 or even the 5,781 the team drew for the first leg of the Nutrilite Series against Toronto FC Wednesday at 60,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium.

But at least there were people in more than half the seats and they managed to beat the 1,431 at NSC Minnesota Stars' home opener.

FC Edmonton put the emphasis on winning fans and influencing people by providing a competitive club.

There's something to be said for that in a town where the Oilers finished 30th the last two years, where the Eskimos haven't had a home playoff game since 2004 and where the Edmonton Rush National Lacrosse League team has never had a home playoff game, period, and only one season in six in which they made the playoffs.

While it was a decent gathering for a 7:30 p.m. game on May 1 with a temperature of 13 degrees C, drawing 2,651 and losing 5-0 doesn't exactly create a buzz.

But all is not lost even if a supporter is going to have to wait until May 23 to possibly see a goal.

It's back on the road again for the team from the far north in a league in which five of the eight teams are located in the deep south or beyond in Puerto Rico.

FC Edmonton will play the second leg of the Nutrilite Wednesday in Toronto's BMO Stadium and then play their fourth and fifth away games in Atlanta and Tampa Bay before returning home to play Minnesota and Tampa Bay at the end of the month.

Despite the loss, FC Edmonton should still be positioned well enough in the standings when they return with five of their 14 road games in the books.

Despite the lopsided loss, they remained third with six points, four back of the Peurto Rico Islanders and one back of Carolina RailHawks.

But the goals for and against don't look good.

They're 0-8 at home.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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