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NASL Fanatic Exclusive Interview with FC Edmonton Coach Dwight Lodeweges

Dwight Lodeweges

 

FC Edmonton was awarded a franchise in the NASL in February of this year.  The club, owned by the Tom and Dave Fath, were able to hire coach Dwight Lodeweges in February also.  Coach Lodeweges and his assistants, Hans Schrijver and Dave Randall, have assembled a roster of 23 players and are playing an exchibition schedule this summer that has included contests against 2010 FA Cup finalists Portsmouth, iconic Chilean club Colo Colo, and the Montreal Impact and will face the Puerto Rico Islanders later this summer, along with other matches for an eight game exhibition season. 

Coach Lodeweges, 52, was born in Alberta, Canada but his Dutch parents returned to the Netherlands, where he grew up.  Lodeweges played for the Dutch club Go Ahead Eagles, and also  for the Edmonton Drillers and Montreal Manic of the old NASL.  Lodeweges also made six appearances for the Netherlands U-21 national team in 1978.  Lodeweges has been involved in coaching for more than 20 years, having been involved with the Go Ahead Eagles and other Dutch clubs such as FC Zwolle, FC Groningen, SC Heerenveen, PSV Eindhoven and NEC Nijmegen, and has also coached in the UAE and Japan.  The coach, who’s roster includes three Dutch veteran players, two Brazilians and many young Canadian players, was kind enough to take a timeout to talk with the NASL Fanatic. 

NASL Fanatic:       After your success coaching in the Netherlands, what were the factors that led you to return to Canada and coach the new Edmonton franchise?  

Coach Lodeweges:  I have a history in Edmonton, and lived here for four years.  It was a gut feeling, wanting a new challenge and adventure.  I wanted to give back something to the game in Canada, and when I leave Edmonton in the future and have left a club behind that has a good foundation with a lot Albertans playing on the team,  I will be happy. 

NASL Fanatic:   You have developed a roster of 23 players for this summer’s exhibition schedule  What player or players have exceeded your expectations so far? 

Coach Lodeweges:   All of them have shown us, the coaching staff, that they are willing to learn, are open-minded and are really trying to do something with the info we give them. The players  have made great steps so far. In frequency of training sessions, nutrition, core stability and in level of soccer performance, we have been very happily surprised by their progress. 

NASL Fanatic:  How excited were your players to have the opportunity to match up with teams like Portsmouth, Colo Colo and the Montreal Impact? 

Coach Lodeweges:   Most of the players had never played in front of a large crowd.  Many of the players are local or from Alberta, so everybody was watching them with extra interest.  The players were a little tense but also thrilled to play in front of the Edmonton fans, and to show their qualities as  soccer players.  It is an exibition  season for the club, but that’s not how the players see it. They really want to make a statement.  (editors note:  And they did, beating the Montreal Impact  and losing to Portsmouth on penalty kicks and to Colo Colo by one goal).  

NASL Fanatic:   Given your lengthy experiences in Dutch football, do you foresee any efforts in the future by Dutch teams to form affiliations with USSF D2 clubs in the US and Canada, to raise the profile of the Dutch clubs in North America?  Can you foresee the possibility of loan agreements for young players or Dutch clubs increasing scouting of North American D2 teams? 

Coach Lodeweges:   I think there is a good chance for players to be looked at by Dutch clubs. My assistants and I know a lot of people in the Netherlands. At first, teams in Holland might be a little hesitant,  but once they find that when players go for trials in Holland and do well, they might take a second look at these players. And from there you never know what will happen.  

NASL Fanatic:   I would love to see D2 football expand into other Canadian NHL/CFL cities such as Calgary and Hamilton…Do you think there are sustainable markets for the game in other Canadian cities besides Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton? 

Coach Lodeweges:  Ownership groups must be encouraged to start new franchises.  Our owners, Tom and Dave Fath, are commited to the success of this franchise.  They know that they have to invest first before they can expect a profit.  But they have a strong belief in this franchise and this market.  I do think we can expand into more Canadian markets with the right decisions. 

NASL Fanatic:  Finally coach, now that Canada has four professional clubs in MLS and D2, what do you think the impact will be on the future success of the Canadian national team? 

Coach Lodeweges:   I always think that when you want a good national team, you need a good national league in which players can develop and become better, so that, with all due respect, Canadian players do not necessarily have to go to a European or South American club to develop. So the Canadian Soccer Association needs to make soccer important and make the proper decisions. They need a plan. And professionals to implement this plan. We have a lot of catching up to do. Make a plan, hire professionals, forget the politics. Soccer is important, not political haggling and the positions of officials.  Thirty years ago we were better than the US, and look at the situation now. Analyse this and learn from it.

The NASL Fanatic appreciates Coach Lodeweges taking the time to share his insight with fans.  Thanks also to James Rosnau and Tanya Kapko of the FC Edmonton organization for helping coordinate this interview.  I have a feeling that FC Edmonton fans have a lot to look forward to. 

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