After playing in the UEFA Champions League with Linfield, Northern Ireland's Daryl Fordyce is looking to qualify for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League with FC Edmonton. (Photo courtesy of FC Edmonton)
EDMONTON, Canada – On July 13, 2011, Daryl Fordyce made a splash with Linfield in his native Northern Ireland, scoring on his competitive debut for the club in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw with BATE Borisov.
Fast-forward three years and the 27-year-old striker is hoping to lead FC Edmonton to the CONCACAF Champions League.
“It would be a great experience if we get there, but at the minute we’re not even thinking about that,” Fordyce said after training Monday. “We just need to concentrate on Wednesday’s game.”
Wednesday’s game is the opening leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals against the defending champion Montreal Impact. Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps square off in the other two-legged semifinal with the competition’s winner booking a berth in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.
FC Edmonton, which competes in the North American Soccer League (NASL), is the only non-Major League Soccer squad remaining.
“We’ll be the underdogs to progress to the final, but we have the players who can get a result in both games,” expressed Fordyce. “We have nothing to lose. We just have to go out and give it our best.”
The first leg is at Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium, which Fordyce said was rocking last week when Edmonton knocked off fellow NASL squad Ottawa Fury, 3-1, in the second leg after a scoreless opening leg.
Fordyce scored a brace, while 17-year-old Hanson Boakai added the other goal.
“It was like a derby match. We were 0-0 at Ottawa and knew if Ottawa scored, we would need two so we felt it was important to score the first goal,” Fordyce noted. “It was very big to get that win.”
Fordyce is in his second season with FC Edmonton after two seasons with Linfield, where he helped the Blues win the double in 2012. That all came after the historic goal against BATE, which gave his team the lead.
“I got in behind the defense and scored a diving header,” he said. “It was good to get a goal in the Champions League.”
Despite the success at Linfield and earlier at Glentoran, Fordyce was looking for a new challenge. He and close friend Albert Watson, who was also a teammate at Linfield, found that challenge in Edmonton.
“We both wanted to start a new life,” commented Fordyce. “Luckily, Colin [Miller, Edmonton head coach] gave us a trial and we had our chance.”
The move meant adjustments both on and off the pitch.
“In Northern Ireland, they always play tight on you all over the pitch and both teams always press,” Fordyce said. “Here you have teams that like to sit back and let you have the ball. Sometimes, as a forward, they also let you turn with the ball. Here you have a bit more time on the ball, but the players are also more athletic and can do damage with pace and strength.”
Of course, there is also getting acclimated to the colder temperatures in Alberta. Fordyce said he realized that when he arrived for preseason last February and the temperature was -14 Celsius.
“I was told I missed the real cold. Apparently it was -35,” Fordyce said. “I thought they were joking, but the city does a great job dealing with the snow. If I was back home and there was two centimeters of snow, no cars would move. The causeways would be closed.”
Now Fordyce said Edmonton is “buzzing,” a feeling that can only heighten with a positive result against Montreal in the semifinals.
“It was great for the city. Last Wednesday against Ottawa, it was really the first time I felt a buzz coming from the people,” Fordyce said. “If we could progress to the finals, it would be huge for the club and the city. It’s a great chance to put soccer on the map here in Edmonton.”