Edmonton, Canada (April 11, 2019) — FC Edmonton will commence playing in the new Canadian Premier League. The team’s inaugural match is on May 4, in Winnipeg against Valour FC. Director of Soccer Operations and Head Coach Jeff Paulus has high expectations for the team he is building.
This is his first year of head coach of a professional soccer team. Paulus spoke with Last Word on Soccer to reveal what building a new soccer team is like.
Prior to heading up FC Edmonton, Paulus has spent eight seasons coaching at NAIT Ooks in Edmonton from 2004-12. While leading the team, the Ooks won the 2011 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship. This was after the team won a silver medal in 2010.
After departing from NAIT, Paulus spent several years as an assistant to Colin Miller with the NASL version of the Eddies. At the same time, he was the technical director for the Academy and continued on with the Academy even after the professional side did not last, with the crumbling of the NASL. Last July, Paulus got the nod to take on the lead role to build the new Canadian Premier League team.
Paulus says he maintains the same approach he has used in the past and that he aims to build “a good relationship with the players.” He wants to have the type of atmosphere and promote the “style of football players enjoy being part of.”
He believes in being “true to yourself” and that he is “not yeller or screamer.” He wants to support his players to ensure they know they can be brave out on the field.
In his spare time, Paulus likes to read about other managers to continuously learn and improve.
— FC Edmonton (@FCEdmontonNow) April 10, 2019
Building the New FC Edmonton
While thinking about his previous coaching experiences versus now, Paulus reflected that “there is a big difference; it’s night and day” when building a team from scratch.
“It’s difficult to put your mark on your team when assuming someone else’s roster,” Paulus said.
Paulus says there is added stress when having to build from the ground up. However, there is trust from the ownership group in his vision. He wants to “create something that’s not going to be a one-year thing.”
“You decide how you want to play football and find players that fit,” Paulus said. “You surround yourself with a group of players to see if your philosophy is going to work.”
Paulus added that he did look for several veteran players to help lead and build the young players on the team. One of the key challenges has been managing the salary cap this year. He said one of the keys is “making sure you don’t tie your hands in year two.”
When it came to some of the players the team has been able to sign, Paulus was keen on Jeannot Esua, who just came over from Cameroon after spending half a year in the USL with Orange County. Esua will be strong up and down the right side.
“Randy Edwini-Bonsu is a true professional and very good footballer,” Paulus added.
Paulus did highlight that he would like to sign two more players before the start of the season. Two additional players would put the team at its salary cap limit for the first half. Also, there is expected to be another signing of a European player in July to fill a hole for one of the younger players returning to school in August.
Elaborating on the type of player he would like to sign, Paulus did say that he is looking for a left-footed player to shore up the left side of the field.
“They play the game differently,” he said.
Paulus reflected on how the team is coming together. However, he has not determined the starting lineup.
“Some players are still earning that spot,” Paulus said. “Every player still has a chance.”
There will be some veteran players making the lineup. In regard to Tomi Ameobi, Paulus said that “you have to assume he’s coming as a starting player.”
— FC Edmonton (@FCEdmontonNow) April 11, 2019
Without a doubt, FC Edmonton wants to win the league. Paulus wants to get “as many points as you can” as the goal is the CPL Championship.
In reference to the CONCACAF League (CL) qualifying games in the spring season, Paulus said that the team will not be altering its approach for those games.
“Those games are still three-point games,” he said.
Making it to the CL would be a wonderful opportunity for the team. While it creates challenges with extra games, it would be a massive boost for the players to qualify for the CL in 2020, Paulus says.
Dominican Republic Report
The team arrived in the Caribbean nation on Monday after an early morning flight out of Edmonton. FC Edmonton will hit the pitch for the first time on Tuesday to practice.
The Eddies will compete in two matches while in the Dominican. The first will be a closed-door friendly against a local club, and the second will be against HFX Wanderers.
— FC Edmonton (@FCEdmontonNow) April 10, 2019