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Pacific FC, FC Edmonton renew quirky CPL rivalry

Through all its troubles in the Canadian Premier League, FC Edmonton has presented one constant: It has bedeviled Pacific FC with the all-time series between the clubs deadlocked at 4-4-4. The last-place Eddies hope to do the same today at 4 p.m.
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Pacific FC and FC Edmonton are ready to battle again, this time at Starlight Stadium. TRISHA LEES, PACIFIC FC

Through all its troubles in the Canadian Premier League, FC Edmonton has presented one constant: It has bedeviled Pacific FC with the all-time series between the clubs deadlocked at 4-4-4.

The last-place Eddies hope to do the same today at 4 p.m. at Starlight Stadium against the first-place Tridents (4-1-1). The Eddies, meanwhile, are winless on the season with three draws and four losses, including the 2-1 defeat this week at the hands of provincial-rival Cavalry FC in the Canadian Championship opening round.

The first meeting of the 2022 CPL season between Pacific FC and FC Edmonton was a scoreless draw last month at Clarke Stadium in the Alberta capital. PFC head coach James Merriman wouldn’t bite when asked why FC Edmonton has managed, in part, to confound the Tridents over the years: “We are 100 per cent focused on ourselves.”

But Merriman added: “We were not happy with that scoreless draw [in Edmonton]. I thought we did more than enough. We’re hungry and had a great week of training. We’ll build on what we’ve done and continue to grow.”

FC Edmonton has been taken over by the CPL after the former owners ran into financial troubles operating the club. The CPL is searching for new ownership. Until then, in a show of league solidarity, the Eddies are mostly stocked on loan by signed developmental players from the other seven CPL clubs, including Haiti U-20 national-team midfielder Bicou Bissainthe from PFC, and two players on loan from Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.

“I guess this is the selfless part of my job right now — I’m actually developing players for other clubs. But that’s part of what we have to do to make sure we keep one of Canada’s football clubs afloat,” FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch recently told Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press.

One of the few FC Edmonton returnees, former Germany U-19 player and Dortmund prospect Tobias Warschewski, remains a dangerous Eddies striker who can create chances.

Both teams have received outstanding goalkeeping with Andreas Vaikla, on loan from Toronto FC of MLS, and Callum Irving of PFC co-leading the CPL in saves. Many observers have Vaikla tabbed as a future MLS keeper, while it was only through Irving’s heroics that PFC managed to escape the nation’s capital with a 1-0 victory last weekend against Atletico Ottawa.

“These are two top goalkeepers,” said Merriman.

“Callum [Irving] has been an excellent professional and is one of our captains and leaders.”

It will be a personally emotive game for PFC central-defender Amer Didic. The six-foot-four Canada-capped former ­Sporting Kansas City MLS-prospect played three seasons for the Eddies before being lured away by PFC in a key ­off-season signing to replace Lukas ­MacNaughton, who moved up to MLS with Toronto FC. The 27-year-old Didic was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina and came to Edmonton as a youngster following the Bosnian War and grew up playing in the Sherwood Park youth soccer leagues.

“Growing up in Edmonton, it’s tough to see what [FC Edmonton] has gone through, and I am personally happy it is still going,” said Didic, following the PFC-Eddies draw last month in his hometown.

Meanwhile, PFC has signed Luca Ricci, their first-round selection in the U Sports draft, out of the national ­champion University of Montreal ­Carabines and the CF Montreal MLS Academy.

“You get to keep your university eligibility while learning in a pro environment,” said Merriman, of the special arrangement between the CPL and U Sports.

CORNER KICKS: PFC, which received a first-round bye, has had its all-CPL Canadian Championship quarter-final against York United shifted to May 24 at 7 p.m. at Starlight Stadium. It had originally been skedded for May 25. The other quarter-finals have HFX of the CPL meeting Toronto FC of MLS on May 24 and Forge FC of the CPL playing CF Montreal of MLS and Cavalry FC of the CPL meeting the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS on May 25.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com