For the first time in history, two Canadian clubs from the North American Soccer League will meet on the pitch in Wednesday's Amway Canadian Championship.
FC Edmonton travels to NASL expansion club Ottawa Fury FC for the first leg of the seventh annual national competition on Wednesday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m. MT / 7:30 p.m. ET, before returning home for the second leg on April 30. The eventual winner of Canada's domestic cup qualifies for the 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League.
The Eddies and Fury FC will go head-to-head in a home and away round, with the winner over both matches advancing to face the Montreal Impact in the semi finals on May 7 and 14. Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC will meet in the other in the semi-final.
The ACC will be the first ever meeting between Canada's two NASL teams before they clash again in league play in May. The two preliminary round matches will be streamed lived on canadasoccer.com/championship.
NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson noted, "Wednesday is another step in the continued growth of the NASL and an exciting first match for these two Canadian teams. It will be great soccer to watch this rivalry be born contesting the Canadian Championship and it will be further stoked by the opportunity to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League."
The game will feature two clubs playing in good form but still working towards their first victory of the new NASL Spring Season. FC Edmonton drew 1-1 with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in their first game and dropped their home opener 1-0 to the New York Cosmos. Ottawa Fury FC was defeated 2-0 by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and dropped their home opener 2-1 against Minnesota United FC by conceding a heartbreaking last second goal.
"It's a huge week for us and it won't be easy," said FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. "We'll freshen the team up a bit, get some players a chance that haven't played much so far. I'm glad we can turn our attention away from home for a couple of games. We're in a good frame of mind."
"This will certainly be one of the most important games of our short history," added Ottawa Fury FC coach Marc Dos Santos. "Our players and staff want to make this dream possible and qualify for the semifinals. For that we will need to show incredible commitment, organization and passion during all 180 minutes."
Rowdies sign Ricky Hill to three-year coaching contract
The NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies announced the signing of Head Coach Ricky Hill to a three year contract, through the 2016 season, superseding the one-year contract extension signed in December 2013. The former England international just entered his fourth season with the Rowdies after joining the club in 2011.
"In my opinion Ricky is the best coach in any league, anywhere" said club principal owner Bill Edwards. "I felt compelled to have the very best coach for the Rowdies. I am proud and happy that Ricky has agreed to move permanently to the St. Petersburg area with his wife and family"
Hill, who hails from England, began his soccer career at the age of 17 playing for Luton Town Football Club in 1976, scoring in his professional debut against Bristol Rovers. He played for Luton until 1989, making 436 League appearances and scoring 54 goals.
Hill represented England several times on the national youth teams and the Under-21 team, as well as earning three caps with the Senior National Team between 1982 and 1986. From 1989 to 1991, Hill played for Le Havre FC in France and Leicester City FC in England before signing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1991 as a player and coach. In 1992, Hill was named Coach of the Year and a member of the ASL All-Star Team.
From there, Hill was head coach of the Under-19 and Under-17 teams for Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, managing several current or former English Premier League players.
"I'm absolutely delighted to commit myself to a longer period with the Rowdies," said Hill. "They have always been a spiritual home for me going back to the 1990's when they gave me my first opportunity as a coach and as a player. I'm delighted that Mr. Edwards has shown faith in me in regards to believing that I'm the person that can assist him in taking the club forward into the new era. I'd like to thank not just the fans we have at Al Lang Stadium, but also beyond in the Rowdies family who've treated me with nothing but tremendous respect and love and appreciation. I thank them and I hope I can do them proud over this three-year period and win further championships."
Hill's coaching style, which combines passion with discipline, has benefited the organization since his arrival. His drive to maintain possession of the ball has led the Rowdies to play one of the most dynamic styles of soccer in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Both fans and league officials have noticed.
In 2011, Hill's first year with the club, the Rowdies defeated the Bolton Wonders of the English Premier League and Hill guided the club to the NASL quarterfinals. That same year the Rowdies earned the NASL Fair Play award, given to the team with the fewest Yellow and Red Card point totals. In 2012, he coached the club to a thrilling shoot-out victory in the NASL Soccer Bowl and earned the inaugural 2012 NASL Coach of the Year Award. The Rowdies were also awarded their second consecutive Fair Play Award for the 2012 season.
"I could not be more pleased with the extension of Ricky's contract," added club general manager Perry Van Der Beck. "His leadership style, mentoring skills and in-depth knowledge of the game have been proven keys to the club's accomplishments. The Rowdies are poised for more future successes with Ricky at the helm. This also acknowledges the commitment from ownership in support of achieving our goals."