Sunday, July 9, 2017

North Carolina FC 1 at FC Edmonton 2 (NASL) - July 7, 2017


The centerpiece of this extended sports road trip was actually not related to sports at all, but a family function in Alberta. So after a couple of weeks visiting the Pioneer League and then touring some national parks, I returned to Canada for the first time in a month, flying to Edmonton from Salt Lake City. As luck would have it, the day before there was an NASL game there, so I stopped by to add another venue to my list.

FC Edmonton plays out of Clarke Stadium, and that is located right next to Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Eskimos. They have posters commemorating their Grey Cup wins, including their 2015 title, which I attended.



These venues are just north of downtown and easily accessible on the Stadium stop on the Capital LRT line. Clarke Stadium is southwest of Commonwealth, so you have to walk around it to get to the smaller facility. As you approach Clarke from this direction, you will see the east side stands from the outside, but the main entrance is a couple of minutes further on the west side.



As I approached the box office, a gentleman offered me a paper ticket. Usually I am a bit suspicious with paper tickets, but when he said the magic word "free", I gladly took it and walked in. Regular prices vary from $16 for the general admission benches that are in the southern corners to $35 for midfield, from where the shot below was taken. As you can see, the sun shines directly into the east stands for most of the game, so bring a hat and sunscreen as the west side seats are all taken by season ticket holders.



The east side is quite steep with seven sections; prices go up slightly every section closer to midfield. The Eddies drew well for their first Friday home game since 2014, and although my ticketed seat was GA, I avoided that area and was fortunate to be able to spend the first half in the top row here without being kicked out,. The announced attendance was 3,438, higher than any home game last season, and over 2/3 of its capacity of 5,000.



In the second half, having scouted out an open location on the other side, I moved over to enjoy the shade. There are ushers here that are checking tickets, but they usually stop doing so at halftime.



The Edmonton skyline can be seen in the southwest corner of the stadium. In the middle of the picture below are the SW general admission benches that I mentioned; you can probably tell that the view from there is not very good.



This is a very simple venue, as you would expect for a second-tier soccer league. It wasn't always this way; it opened in 1938 with 20,000 seats. The Eskimos played here until 1978, when they moved to Commonwealth Stadium, which had been built for the Commonwealth Games. It has undergone a couple of renovations in the meantime, and now suits its purpose quite well. Definitely worth a visit should you ever be in Edmonton in the summer.

The Game

North Carolina FC made the trek all the way from Cary to take on the Eddies, who had lost four in a row by the same 1-0 scoreline, putting them 7th in the 8-team league with two games left in the spring season. NCFC, lying 5th, didn't take that long to get it to 1-0 when Dre Fortune scored on a looping shot from the top of the box, beating a helpless Nathan Ingham. Near halftime, Ingham collided heavily with Lance Laing right at the edge of the penalty box. Both players lay injured for a while, with Ingham appearing to be concussed and having to leave the game, where he was replaced by Tyson Farago.

Local pizzeria Pizza 73 has a promotion whereby if Edmonton scores in the 73rd minute at home, all fans get a free pepperoni pizza the next day (the free pizza is also given out if they score 3 times). When this was announced as the clock hit 72:00, fans started paying attention and cheering loudly, but it was not to be. However, just three minutes after that, Tomi Ameobi headed home a cross from Ben Fisk to tie the game and end the long goal drought. And when it rains, it pours. Three minutes later, Mauro Eustáquio was able to slide one off the left post to give the Eddies the advantage, much to the delight of the home crowd. Carolina tried to get that one back, but could not beat Farago as Edmonton took the match 2-1.



This was a pretty entertaining match, and as one young fan said afterward, a "super unbelievable comeback". Couldn't have put it better myself.

Notes

The flight from Seattle was in a turboprop plane, which meant a ceiling of 25,000 feet. We had great views the whole way, including shots of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field below...



...Mount Baker...



...and all of downtown Edmonton as we landed. If you click on the picture below, you can see Rogers Place clearly just northwest of center, while Commonwealth and Clark Stadiums are near the top right corner, while half of Telus Field can be seen at the bottom.



The international baggage claim at Edmonton International is unique. Each carousel has a sports theme - one is the Oilers of course, the other is the Oil Kings (the junior team) in an old-time table hockey motif...



...while the Eskimos boast of all their Grey Cups. If you fly to Edmonton, try to come in from another country to enjoy these brilliant baggage claim concepts.



Next Up

I'm taking a few days off to enjoy Alberta before resuming the baseball portion of my trip on Wednesday. I have 7 games left starting with a visit to the Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Washington. Check back then as I near the end of my minor league stadium quest.

Best,

Sean

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