Tactical Tidbits: Not all bad for FC Edmonton at bottom of table

Shawn Nicklaw - FC Edmonton

Photo credit: FC Edmonton

FC Edmonton’s offense needs a defibrillator. Luckily, it might have found one via an unlikely source: its back line. Or, more specifically, its fullbacks.

The Eddies attack produced a meager 25 goals in 32 NASL games last season, and has remained dormant through two matches in 2017. Edmonton has zero goals and zero points after two scoreless losing efforts to Jacksonville Armada FC.

Tactical TidbitsBut there are signs of a faint pulse thanks to left back Netan Sansara and right back Shawn Nicklaw. If Edmonton wants to average a goal a game this year, they might be providing the spark from the flanks.

Sansara, quite frankly, looks like one of the better fullbacks in the NASL. And Nicklaw was already among them after playing over 2,200 minutes last season for both Armada FC and Edmonton’s stingy back four after being traded mid-season.

“(Nicklaw’s) biggest asset as a defender of course is going forward,” Eddies coach Colin Miller told FCEdmonton.com last season. “But when you come to FC Edmonton, you know that you are going to have to work both sides of the game.”

Known for playing excessively compact, the Eddies really opened things up in last weekend’s loss. Check out the combined heat maps of Sansara and Nicklaw, attacking from left to right:

FC Edmonton

Photo credit: NASL.com

And the fullbacks’ continual runs up the touchline weren’t for naught. They got up the pitch; their teammates got them the ball.

Netan Sansara

Photo credit: NASL.com

Sansara finished the match with an insane 108 touches — not accumulated via pendulum dribbling in the back. The 27-year-old made himself both available, and dangerous.

He didn’t have the most efficient passing game ever, completing only 42 of 63 passes. But he played in four crosses, got off two shots and defensively contributed seven duels won and three interceptions.

On the other side of the pitch, Nicklaw had himself a ballgame as well. He practically looked like a winger in a 4-2-3-1. OK, that’s an embellishment, but the only players on the Eddies that played higher up the pitch were right midfielder Dean Shiels (#22) and striker Tomi Ameobi (#18). This was Nicklaw’s average position last weekend:

Shawn Nicklaw

Photo credit: NASL.com

Nicklaw incurred 71 touches of his own across his full-90 shift and pitched in five crosses. As for the negative, he only won one of seven duels according to Opta, while conceding five fouls.

Overall, Nicklaw and Sansara were a huge part of why the Eddies, even in a loss, were able to hold 52 percent of the possession and out-cross Jacksonville 29 to 11.

Though there hasn’t been much to smile about in the capital of Alberta so far, the fullback play has been exceptional. Now it’s up to the midfielders and forwards to find a way to capitalize on the opportunities unlocked by using the width of the pitch.

Will the fullbacks once again have to shock the Eddies offense back to life this week? Edmonton will try to nab its first point(s) of the season Saturday evening at North Carolina FC.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KJboxing.

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