We’re two and a half months away from the first Canadian Premier League season kicking off. As the excitement builds, we still know virtually nothing about the CPL in terms of league structure (single table, split season, playoffs), how strong each team will be, and who will make a realistic run towards that inaugural championship.
Some teams look to have something of an early advantage in terms of familiarity with squad members and one of those teams is FC Edmonton.
As we launch our coverage of the Eddies in the CPL here on AFTN, here’s five reasons why I feel FC Edmonton are in a strong position to make a run at lifting that first title.
FC Edmonton are the only CPL club with a history and did not start from step one. They already had passionate owners who cared about the game and a solid front office set up that saw the club grow during its last season in the NASL. This is important, as the people who are behind the scenes already have the knowledge of how to operate a club at this level and how to assist the club in their ambitions.
FC Edmonton was also the only club to have an established academy before the CPL was announced. This gives them the early advantage of having players at the club who know the style that Jeff Paulus wants them to play. Under him they won the EDSA Division 1 title last year, while also winning provincials and being invited to the Super Cup NI, a tournament which also featured clubs like Newcastle United.
SQUAD MAKE UP
FC Edmonton also have the advantage of being the most balanced squad so far in the CPL. You could argue that they have no “stand out” players at every positon, but instead they have good quality players who can play multiple positions all around the pitch. Their squad is also full of players who have played under Jeff Paulus in the academy before (Noah Cunningham, Ajeej Sakaria, Connor James, Dylan Powley, Allan Zebie, Bruno Zebie, and Ajay Khabra). Many of them have also played with Tomi Ameobi, Kareem Moses, and Edem Mortosi, who have all played with FC Edmonton in the NASL. Having these former players, who have already played with each other and have chemistry on the pitch, can only be seen as a positive for the club going into its first CPL season.
The FC Edmonton coaching staff has vast experience between them. Sean Fleming, the club’s assistant coach and the director of the academy, has coached the Canadian U18, U17, and U15 teams on multiple occasions while also being the mentor to the club’s current manager Jeff Paulus.
Fleming’s experience with these programs will be a major component to the team. They have numerous young players in their current first team squad and many young kids in their academy hungry for their opportunity.
Fleming is joined by Canadian goalkeeping legend Lars Hirschfeld, who had 48 caps for Canada and played for numerous European clubs over a 19 year playing career. He brings a wealth of experience to aid FC Edmonton’s two young keepers, who are both academy graduates. His experience and knowledge of the game can only aid these two young men in their goalkeeping future while being, according to Jeff Paulus, still young enough to go between the sticks if needed.
And then we come to Jeff Paulus himself.
For me, Paulus is the number one reason why FC Edmonton have a real shot at winning the first CPL title, for numerous reasons.
He already has the contacts with players who have played effectively both for and against the team in the past and we have seen this with the signing of many NASL players to Edmonton in the last few months. He won two youth titles last season, got the FCE academy invited to the Super Cup NI, and won the promotion battle against Victoria Soccer Club, getting the U18 side into the Alberta Major Soccer League.
Paulus has also coached many of the current FC Edmonton squad before, who all know his style and what he expects of them. That familiarity and chemistry should go a long way in help the club come out the gate quickly, while some of the other CPL teams are still finding their feet.