Soccer Night in Edmonton: Portsmouth FC vs. FC Edmonton

I’ve attended more sporting events this summer than I did for the whole of 2009; I’m not sure what spurred it on, except to say that it has been a nice change of pace.

Last Wednesday, we joined Mack’s parents, Thom and Lana to watch the city’s North American Soccer League pro team, FC Edmonton, compete in the inaugural Edmonton Cup against Portsmouth (a team, which I am told, just fell from the premiere tier to the second tier of professional soccer in the UK – meaning they are pretty darn good). For this year, FC Edmonton is playing exhibition games, warming up to their first full season with the league to start in March 2011.

Go FC Edmonton!

The crowd on hand totaled nearly 9,000 – organizers must have been expecting as much, as they had closed off half of Commonwealth to better concentrate the crowd (thankfully, they chose to seat us on the east-facing side, protecting us from the harsh evening sun).

Mack and me

Though I knew Edmonton had our share of hard core soccer fans (evident with the outpouring of emotion during the World Cup), I didn’t think they would manifest at the FC Edmonton game – I was wrong.

Conga line of painted fans

This was my first time witnessing a game played on Commonwealth’s newly-installed artificial turf. It looked pretty good to me – much more realistic from afar than the flat, neon-green Astroturf I remember from the 90s. What was difficult to get used to was watching the spray of rubber pellets spring up in the wake of any hard pressure to the turf.

Game on

I always cite the lack of goal scoring during a match as the primary reason for my lack of interest in soccer, but in person, it was a little more interesting, being able to people-watch in addition to watching the game. Count me surprised when FC Edmonton managed to get on the board in the sixth minute.

FC Edmoton celebrates

Conversely, I wasn’t surprised that the next goal took another thirty-two minutes to score, bringing Portsmouth even with Edmonton.

The game was ultimately decided by penalty kicks, which was probably the exciting ending everyone was hoping for anyway. I still wonder how the goalkeeper is supposed to stop the rocket shots, but the Portsmouth keeper managed to save one, and helped his team defeat Edmonton 2-1.

Penalty kick

While I’m not sure I’d become an ardent fan of FC Edmonton, I know many people are looking forward to having a local, professional soccer team to cheer for again. Their next game is against the Victoria Highlanders on August 11, 2010 at Foote Field.