Vancouver, BC– The 2020 Canadian Premier League campaign did not go as FC Edmonton had hoped. Following their tumultuous performance at the Island Games, Jeff Paulus, the club’s first Head Coach in the CPL era stepped down, leaving the league’s second-ever coaching vacancy.
While the club could go the route of bringing in a current assistant, or an experienced foreign coach to reinvigorate the group, there are a number of Canadian-based coached who could fill the role.
When it comes to domestic coaches, there is the option of picking somebody from the professional ranks, as would be the case if former NASL Edmonton manager, Colin Miller returned, or the Eddies could opt to bring one of the nation’s elite U SPORTS coaches into the role.
U SPORTS has had a significant impact on the league over its first two seasons, and alumni have also made their mark on FC Edmonton. Easton Ongaro, debatably the club’s best player, is a University of Alberta graduate. However, while players have found their way into the limelight, coaches have yet to do so- Maybe this is the time?
If one of Canada’s premier university coaches were to get some attention from FCE, who would they be? 49 Sports has ranked the Top-5 candidates, as well as a shortlist of others who may garner a look.
1. Ilya Orlov: U of Toronto Varsity Blues
A former U SPORTS soccer player himself with the York Lions, Ilya Orlov is one of Canada’s young coaches who could fill the role at FCE. He has been involved with the University of Toronto programs since 2015 and graduated to the role of men’s Head Coach in 2019.
During his time at U of T, he has helped to develop Lukas MacNaughton, one of Pacific FC’s defensive stalwarts. With Toronto, he also aided their campaigns of two OUA bronze medals, and a national championship berth.
While his time with the Varsity Blues is notable, he has also made a name for himself in the CanPL-owned, League 1 Ontario, with Alliance United FC, one of the stronger clubs. All of that on top of coaching stints at Union Berlin, Fulham and Feyenoord, some of the top clubs in the world.
Like any U SPORTS coach, his appointment would be surprising, but he certainly has the qualifications with UEFA ‘A’ & CSA ‘A’ coaching licences. Something that makes him different than the average football manager is the importance he lays on the mental side of the game. The former Canadian FISU athlete has a B.A in Psychology and has done a number of studies on the mental side of the game, including his latest of how footballing decisions can influence football actions. His mental background, paired with his coaching style could help an FCE club that is reeling after a pair of disappointing CPL campaigns.
While FCE would benefit from his services, he is still fresh-faced in his Head Coaching role with U of T and is settled with Alliance FC as well. He’ll make the CPL one day, but it may be too soon for FCE’s vacancy.
2. Mike Mosher: UBC Thunderbirds
He is the Head Coach of the nation’s most successful university soccer program, the UBC Thunderbirds. With over 20 years of experience on Canada West sidelines, Mosher has helped countless players further their careers, but more importantly, he knows how to win.
A UBC graduate himself, he has four U SPORTS championships as Head Coach and has made the T-Birds a regular participant at the national tournament. Having been at the last three editions of the tournament, he has been put in front of U SPORTS coaching staff, who attend the tournament, scouting for potential players. He has overseen the burgeoning CPL careers of Zach Verhoven, Jordan Haynes and others, as well as many other Canadians who have gone onto the pro game. He has also managed internationally with Canada at the 2007 and 2009 FISU games.
In addition to his success with the T-Birds, he also has previous ties to the Edmonton soccer community, having played with the Edmonton Brickmen of the defunct Canadian Soccer League.
Although he does not have professional managerial experience, he is familiar with the Canadian soccer scene, as well as some of the former U SPORTS players on the Edmonton roster, such as Easton Ongaro.
Having led the program for the last 24 seasons, it will be hard to pry him away from the Vancouver school, but if he were to find his way onto the FCE sideline, success is pretty well guaranteed.
3. Deano Morley: Cape Breton Capers
As the Head Coach of the Cape Breton University Capers, Morley is about as far away from Edmonton as you could get, but he is a solid coach and he is domestic. Morley has been with the program since 2004, first as a player, then as an assistant coach before becoming the Head Coach in 2014. Since taking on the top role, he has turned to Capers into one of U SPORTS’ marquee programs.
The three-time AUS Coach of the Year has won four consecutive conference championships from 2016-2019, and if there were a 2020 season, he could have very well led the Capers to another. Through those winning campaigns, he has developed CPL stars such as Peter Schalle and Corey Bent, who were critical to Halifax’s run to the 2020 Island Games Final. Aside from the AUS accolades, he has also led the Capers to the 2018 U SPORTS title, a year where he won the U SPORTS Coach of the Year award.
He is a young coach with a winning pedigree and knows how to manage young players. Morley spoke with the Cape Breton Post, mentioning that he has entrusted his players to stay on top of their fitness and studies in the odd fall of 2020. This is different than many schools that have sent training regimes to their student-athletes to follow.
The 2021 season could be the perfect time for Morley to take the jump, as potentially 14 players could be moving on from the CBU program. Although for now, he is focused on recruiting to continue the level of success that the Capers have been accustomed to.
For FCE, he seems pretty perfect. The departed Jeff Paulus spoke of a needing a foreign voice to offer a different mindset, Morley is from England. However, there is also the need to be familiar with Canada’s soccer structure, an asset that the current Capers manager also holds.
4. Martin Fenger- Andersen: U of Alberta Golden Bears
While FC Edmonton could scour the world for a manager, they could also look right in their own backyard, with the manager of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, Martin Fenger-Andersen. He is the least experienced coach on the list, only taking over the senior coaching role in 2018, however, he could synonymously fit into FCE.
He may be young, but he has already won the Canada West Coach of the Year (2018) and helped FCE players such as Easton Ongaro and Connor James while they were in U SPORTS. Throughout the last two years, he has also made sure the Golden Bears are a usual presence in the U SPORTS top-10 rankings.
He is very familiar with Edmonton’s soccer scene, having learned from legendary Canada West coach Len Vickery, and witnessing the growth and collapse of the NASL FC Edmonton. While coaching the Golden Bears, he also is the director of the Green and Gold Soccer Academy, a premier soccer school in Edmonton. At the academy, he also coaches alongside former Golden Bear, turned CPL forward, Bruno Zebie, meaning he already has deep connections with the CPL and the club.
Hiring Fenger-Andersen would be a bit of a gamble and may not offer the “fresh voice” that the club is hoping for, but he would be a solid addition to the local pro team. While others on this list may be a better fit for the FCE role right now, do not be surprised to see Fenger-Andersen in that position at some point.
5. Carmine Isacco: York Lions
If you are to look for the greatest university soccer coach ever, Carmine Isacco would probably be on your radar. He is currently the Master Coach of the York Lions, leading both the men and women to tremendous success over his time in the program.
With the men, he has led them to four national titles, as well as regular appearances at the national championships. The men are also six-time OUA champions under his tutelage and have won provincial medals in all but one year he has been at the helm.
The two-time U SPORTS Coach of the Year would be a nice fit with Edmonton, however, he is the only U SPORTS coach to have experience in the CPL, and that tenure ended abruptly. Isacco was the first assistant coach with York 9, but left the position rather mysteriously after the inaugural season, being replaced by former Canadian-international, Paul Stalteri.
With his prematurely ended relationship with York 9, as well as his major role at York U, leaving for Edmonton does not seem likely. However, that does not mean he won’t step foot on a CPL sideline, he may end up in the top job with York 9. The Toronto-based club has been going through some reported personnel issues, and with their struggles on the pitch, they may choose to clean house and bring in a new coach that could go by the name of Mr.Isacco.
For Edmonton, Isacco would be a great hire, but it is less realistic than many of the others on this list.
6. Pat Raimondo: UdeM Carabins
Pat Raimondo is one of the most successful coaches in U SPORTS, yet he is unlikely to land the job with the Eddies. He holds a UEFA ‘A’ licence, similar to Ilya Orlov, and he is the only Quebec coach to have such status. He has won galore and has coached in the RSEQ since 1994, first with McGill, before transferring to the University of Montreal in 2001. He also has international experience at both the FISU and Francophone games.
Despite all this, it is unlikely he will end up in Edmonton. He is a similar coach to Mike Mosher, who is not only closer to Edmonton but is familiar with some of the players already on the roster. If Raimondo continues to thrive with the Carabins however, he could be a prime candidate to become the inaugural coach of Quebec’s first CPL franchise when that pops up.