Updated look at the FC Edmonton Roster

On Boxing Day, we ran a story with the six FC Edmonton players that were publicly announced as officially signed for the 2021 campaign. Two more players have since officially joined Paris Gee, Kyle Porter, Fraser Aird, Chance Carter, Antony Caceres and Marcus Velado-Tsegaye on the roster. Welcome back Jeannot Esua and Easton Ongaro!

The graphic provided by Martikinen Sugar Fingers Siembiwskiey of the River Valley Vanguard (RVV) colour codes for us who are officially signed and who are still free agents.

The Canadian Premier League (CPL), entering only year 3, still leaves much intrigue when it comes to player contracts. Their website does feature a “who’s in, who’s out” page to help follow along.

Some of the intrigue was exposed when Jeannot Esua’s contract was announced by the team as “exercising its option“. How many other players have Club options? Why is this not public information? Why do we need to know this tidbit? Contract details aside, Esua has arguably been the steadiest Eddie during the CPL era.

Easton Ongaro, whose goal scoring prowess makes him the most recognizable Eddie, has been returned to the Club from Danish second-tier club Vendsyssel. Sportsnet ran an article reviewing Canadians abroad and stated the following:

“…he was effective on the ball, but lacked the physicality to be a commanding striker in the division.

That’s changed in recent matches. Ongaro is winning more aerial duels and even scored in back-to-back matches on Dec. 9 and 13.

Ongaro showed exemplary composure for both of his goals. The strike against Esbjerg was created and finished off by the FC Edmonton man after knocking down a long ball before executing a darting run into the box for the headed finish.”

A bold prediction that I do not believe is actually bold is that the upcoming 2021 season will be Ongaro’s last in Canada. It is a shame the Eddies cannot run this campaign as a “farewell tour” for Easton but you just cannot market your most marketable player as leaving even though it is a complement to his talent. If the adjustments he made during the second half of his stint overseas are any sort of precursor, the young lad will continue sharpening his skills at Clarke Stadium on his road to becoming the first CPL version of a FC Edmonton player to be sold abroad. Enjoy this man while you can ladies and gentleman.

Hopefully we can enjoy watching the man and the whole team live this season instead of only on our televisions or laptops. I’m sure we are all tired of reading about “bending the curve” of Covid-19 but it is the only hope sports fans have for sporting events returning with a live audience. Stay safe everyone!

The Edmonton Prospects Season Long Road Trip Examined

The number 56 has great significance in baseball. In the MLB, 56 is the number of consecutive games that Joe DiMaggio collected a hit during the 1941 season which is a record that still stands today. In the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), 56 represents how many regular season games the league has and how many road games the Edmonton Prospects will be playing in 2021.

The Prospects originally took up residence at Re/Max Field ,formerly known as Telus Field, for the 2012 season. The City of Edmonton awarded the leasing rights to the downtown ballpark to Dr. Randy Gregg and then the pandemic cancelled the 2020 season which would have been the Prospects final season in their longtime home.

Spruce Grove Metro Ballpark, located at the southeast corner of Pioneer Road and Highway 16A, will be the Prospects new home hopefully in time for the 2022 season but first the Club must navigate the 2021 season (pandemic allowing of course). Let’s breakdown their season long road trip.

The Opening Month of May features only 4 games and they are all in Fort McMurray. The irony in this is that during the inaugural season of the Giants, the Prospects welcomed them into Telus Field to share as their home due to the wildfires in Fort Mac.

The first Prospects “home game” will be held in Sherwood Park at Centennial Park hosting the expansion Sylvan Lake Gulls. Of 13 total “home games” in June, 3 will be held at Centennial. Weekend sets in Lethbridge and Okotoks will feature the Prospects getting the home field advantage of coming up to bat in the bottom of the ninth if necessary. This will also happen in Sylvan Lake for a two game mid-week series versus the Lethbridge Bulls. 4 games will be played in Spruce Grove at Henry Singer Park.

July features 15 “home games”. 6 in Sylvan Lake with those 3 of those against the Gulls. Centennial Park in Sherwood Park and Henry Singer Park in Spruce Grove will each host three Prospect games. Wally Footz Field in Edmonton enters the fray and will also host three games.

Fittingly, the Prospects play the final week of the regular season on the road.

The Club is offering an inaugural game package as well as a “loyalty rewards program” fully explained on their website under the “2021 Roadshow” tab.

To jog every ones memory, in 2019 the Prospects made the playoffs for a 5th consecutive season. They would lose in the first round to the eventual champion Okotoks Dawgs. Coach Jordan Blundell returns for his second season as bench boss to once again attempt to “win that final game”.

Stay safe everyone!

Eric Newendorp, New FC Edmonton President and General Manager

The hockey team General Manager played in the NHL from 1977-1985. The Edmonton Football team GM played college football. The Edmonton basketball club GM transitioned into coaching soon after his collegiate playing career was over.  The theme suggests that General Managers played their respective sports before trading in the jersey for a collared shirt.

I’m excited to talk with the new General Manager and President of FC Edmonton Eric Newendorp who breaks the mold that the Edmonton sports scene is accustomed to. Newendorp’s resume boasts terms in Soccer (MLS, NASL), hockey (CHL), basketball (NBA D-League, USBL, WNBA), tennis (WTA), and golf (OGA) in roles that focused on sales.

Newendorp has helped to start up or re-brand nine professional sports franchises, and helped to open seven new or re-furbished sports stadia and arenas. With the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League (CHL) national attendance records were set whilst winning two league championships. Source

Ladies and gentleman, this is exactly the right man for what FC Edmonton needs. Welcome to Edmonton Eric, honoured that you’re taking my questions.

The first question is obvious after gleefully shining a light your sales career, how do you manage the actual soccer team?

In cooperation with Head Coach and Director of Soccer Operations Alan Koch. I oversee Alan making sure that his operations represent the owners and city in the best way possible and to provide him and his department with all the supports he needs to give him the best chance to win.

Working for him my role is to help evaluate players. We evaluate players based on heart and ability. I trust Koch’s opinion more on a player’s ability. I primarily structure and negotiate contracts, sometimes that is directly with the player and sometimes it is done through the player and their respective agent. 

The long fancy title of President and General Manager is to try to convey that my primary responsibility is to oversee the general health of the business. The core product which is the soccer team has to be taken care of so that the rest of the business can function. The GM title ideally makes sure the core product is working properly so the rest of the business can thrive. The responsibility of the President title includes looking after all the other aspects of the core product.

Plans to refurbish or readjust Clarke Stadium must be going through the FC Edmonton office. What can you share?

Yes we are looking at areas to improve the stadium that do not include “brick and mortar” improvements, example being we are not building a roof, we are not expanding press boxes or building a deck of luxury suites. Ideas are more about re-purposing existing structures to maximize sales opportunities and fan experiences.

I’ve looked at different places for team branded signage and graphics. We are bringing in and going to display international flags. Probably going to have some sort of family interactive area. It has been tried in the past but more of an area where young people can work off some of their energy. We are going to look at bringing in a ‘terrace seating option’ in the West stands.

The idea behind all of it is to convey more of a feeling in our stadium grounds that we are a major league sports franchise using what we have to work with. All of this dependant on budgets and approvals from ownership and city management.

Chats I’ve had with River Valley Vanguard (RVV) Supporters Group leaders, my comments have always been about incorporating chants into the gameday production a la hockey and football to help fans shake off years of “crowd training” and commence “supporters group” training. I’m sure in due time you will learn all about what our Supporters Group has been and wants to be but please talk about your previous Club’s Supporters Group and if/how you plan to incorporate this element into the gameday script.

We as a Club will always be open to ideas and ways to help the RVV grow. We want to be seen as supporters of the RVV. I’ll stop short of saying partners if they want to maintain their independence which I respect.

Right now there have been no discussions about incorporating items into the gameday script but that does not mean we won’t. We have talked about printing chant lyrics into our game program and we have agreed to move their physical section closer to the big blue grandstand. This way the RVV and the Eddies crowd can feed off of each others energy.

All three of my previous professional soccer clubs featured Supporters Groups that were always plural. There were groups not just one group. Like any other Supporters Group, the vast majority of the members were passionate, loyal, dedicated fans of the Club and we of course welcome them and always wished and hoped for 10,000 more just like them. However there has also been certain members of the Supporters Groups that were counterproductive in their support. I’ve been witness to some very unfortunate and ugly scenes at matches coming from these members.

We as a Club encourage the RVV to grow their ranks. I believe that fans who identify themselves as members of the Supporters Group, as well as all fans in attendance, are there to do a job. That job is to lift our players up so that they feel the energy and support that gives them the edge to help us win. Any actions by fans that do not have this effect is counterproductive to that goal. That does not mean that fans cannot or should not be critical, we welcome peoples opinions but I also think there are methods and ways to voice those criticisms without undermining the role and goals that Supporters ideally are supposed to play for the Club and the team for which they support.

Now to address the elephant in the room. For everything you have mentioned, for all the hopes of fans attending games, discuss preliminary backup plans to backup plans in terms of Covid-19?

Every possible scenario is being looked at and contingency plans are being made for each scenario but specific details won’t be known for a couple of months.  We can take deposits on future memberships based on 14-game seasons or various versions of season memberships or flex packs. Everything we do is schedule based. Until we have a schedule we won’t know what sort of shape the season will take.

Specifically regarding Covid-19, we will follow all the provincial guidelines which may determine capacity allowances and safety protocols but fans should know that when the time comes to host matches at Clarke again we will provide an absolutely safe environment for them to attend. We fully anticipate hosting matches at Clarke Stadium in 2021.

Thank you Eric for the phone call interview. Looking forward to the opportunity to meeting you in person. Hopefully at Clarke Stadium!