‘It changes the game’: Eddies shrink practice pitch ahead of York9 away leg

Jeff Paulus has made a few alterations to the Clarke Field pitch as his team prepares to face York9 in the second qualifying round of the Canadian Championship.

Coach Jimmy Brennan’s men secured their coming dates with Eddies after beating AS Blainville 1-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round.

Paulus recognizes that the small-as-FIFA-will allow pitch that York9 calls home may cause visitors some problems. At only 100 yards long and just a little more than 50 yards wide, when there are 22 players on the field, there isn’t a lot of open space on it.

Paulus put cones up on the Clarke turf so the team trained on a field that’s shrunk to York’s dimensions.

“It’s going to change the way you play,” Paulus said. “It changes the game 11 v 11, when you lose a bit of space to play. You’ve got to alter what you do. I think we’re fortunate as a club here, we’ve got players who can play a few different styles.”

He said the shorter field means that quick strikers don’t have a lot of real estate to work with if they want to try and make runs past the back line of defenders. And the narrow pitch limits fullback play.

“It might not seem like a lot, but 10 yards can make a big difference. And, with the lack of width, if you want to get overlapping players out wide, you want to have attacking fullback, well their space is limited. There will be a couple of things you have to change.

“Advantage for them. When everything is said and done, I think their stadium will be a great environment, a great atmosphere. And advantage to the home team for having a home field that maybe matches the way they want to play. If it was us, I would build my roster based on the size of that field. That would factor in, because that would make it a fortress. And if that’s what they’re able to do, more credit to them.”

And Paulus isn’t reading too much into York only getting by Blainville by a single goal. He said that, because York played almost the entire first month of the season on the road, it’s hard to get a read on what kind of team it will evolve into. It will take some time at home for the side to gel.

“I said this a long time ago, that Blainville was the banana peel,” said Paulus. “That was the one a team could slip up on. They’re organized, they’ve been together a while. They’re a good side, with some players who have played at very good levels. I thought Blainville was very good in the second leg and I thought they deserved a bit better, to be honest. That’s not to give York locker-room material, but I watched the game and I thought Blainville was full credit for their efforts.”

And, with Nathan Ingham in goal and Kyle Porter a part of the starting XI, the fact that a couple of Eddies from the NASL days now wearing the nine stripes will add a bit of sauce to the matchup.

“We know some of these players very well, because they’ve played for us,” said Paulus. “I think Jimmy’s got a good squad, and I think they’ve got a very good coaching staff and management team… Now that they have some time at home, to play in front of their own fans, they’ll be able to have full training weeks without having to travel anywhere, they’ll get it together.”

And FCE striker Tomi Ameobi, with five career goals in the Canadian Championship already to his name, is relishing the chance to return to the Cup competition. And he knows he might be staring down his old teammate, Ingham, when he has a sniff of a chance.

“Nathan, obviously, spent a couple of years here,” said Ameobi. “He’s an excellent goalkeeper. In my opinion, one of the best in the league. He’s done well for himself this season, and I think they (York9) have been unlucky not to have more points in the league. And, playing in the Cup, anything can happen. That’s what makes Cup games so special.”

With the Eddies going four straight CPL games without a goal, the pressure is on the attack in order to get a precious road marker.