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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 22, 2020
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They might be in a bubble on an island at the moment, but FC Edmonton has their sights set on the top of the Canadian Premier League mountain — if not beyond — over the rest of 2020.
The blue-clad crew has been in Prince Edward Island for the past week acclimatizing and isolating while training in preparation for their opening match of The Island Games against Forge FC on Sunday (1 p.m., chch.com).
It will be their first step in the initial stage of the eight-team tournament, which has taken the place of the usual 2020 spring and fall schedules in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, and will culminate in the finals next month.
“We’re in our hotel bubble,” said head coach Jeff Paulus, whose group arrived in Charlottetown on Saturday. “I’m looking at a lovely view of the marina right now that’s just below me and an entertainment section beyond that, that I can see but can’t get to.
“We’re allowed to be in our hotel, but when we’re not in our room we each have a really nice team room that we can go into and have our meals, we have a recreational area with a ping pong table and video-analysis area and physiotherapy area.
“But when we’re not in our room or that area, we have to have a mask on. We can’t leave, we have little patios set up on the outside, but we can’t leave the patio. But, yeah, we can’t leave the hotel grounds at all except to go to the training centre or the stadium to play and then that’s it, you’re put in the bubble again.”
So, while the Maritimes sight-seeing tours will have to wait for another time, FC Edmonton is on a business trip, after all, and they’ll be looking at getting down to it on the pitch beginning this weekend.
“We don’t have half of downtown Edmonton as our bubble to enjoy,” Paulus joked of the NHL’s extravagant bubble back home. “But I don’t blame them here, I have to say. They’ve had no cases and if they’re going to allow in 200-plus people from all over the country, I’m on board with what they put in place.”
It’s all water off a duck’s back when the benefit is actually being able to play some sort of a season at all, compared to having the entire calendar year shut down.
“I think it’s definitely a small price to pay. If they were to say there is no season and start preparing for next year, the staff gets to move on. But for the players, it’s such a brand new league with so many young players,” said Paulus, who has a fair share of his own fresh faces on the roster this year. “And so many players have been given a one-year contract or are in the option year of a contract and if they don’t play, then what if they never get picked up again?
“It’s so important for these young kids to be able to play during this time here so they can be seen and shop themselves to make sure they can get a contract next year. As difficult as the schedule’s going to make it for everybody, at least they get to showcase themselves “
There is another benefit to keeping the CPL in the headlines and eyes on the game across the nation.
“For me, it’s important to keep the league visible because we had a good first year,” Paulus said of FC Edmonton’s latest field of competition, which began as part of the North American Soccer League in 2011, and is back for its second CPL season following a hiatus in 2018. “That’s important, but really it comes down to the players, for me. It’s important to get some games in because, otherwise, it would be well over a year and a half where these players would never play a competitive game, and then they really nip their chances for moving on.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020