8,000 attend Ottawa Fury FC’s School Day Game against New York Red Bulls II

Photos by: Steve Kingsman

Ottawa Fury FC, in their second annual School Day Game, faced a talented New York Red Bulls II team. Red Bulls II entered the match in third place in the USL Eastern Conference standings and is the highest scoring team (15) in the entire league. Fury FC welcomed over 8,000 students, volunteer parents and teachers from schools and communities across Ottawa this past Wednesday morning and battled until the end in a 0-0 draw after going down to ten men midway through the second-half.

Fighting spirit get Fury FC first clean sheet of the season

Fury FC earns their first clean sheet of the season against a young and talented Red Bulls II team. Many of the Red Bulls II players have the quality to play in the MLS for New York Red Bulls’ first-team if they haven’t done so already. 

Red Bulls II applied early pressure as they drew fouls from the Fury FC players in dangerous positions. Maxime Crépeau, in his fourth game as Fury FC’s starting goalkeeper, was forced into making two impressive saves in the first-half, both originating from Red Bulls II freekicks.

Crépeau earns a well-deserved clean sheet and Head Coach Nikola Popovic didn’t hesitate to heap praise on his goalkeeper; however, when asked whether Crépeau earned the point for Fury FC, Popovic was adamant on giving credit to his entire team and even the fans in the stands.

“The eleven guys and all who were [on the bench] and all the [8,000] who were in the stands [earned] us the point. Not Maxime Crépeau. [However], Maxime Crépeau, for me, is one of the best goalkeepers that we have in Canada.”

Doneil Henry was drafted into the starting eleven after joining the team on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps FC a week ago. The Canadian international showed his experience making key blocks and committing few errors in the centre of defence with his partner Colin Falvey. Henry replaced Chris Mannella, allowing Mannella to play in his regular position in the midfield—the position he played last season as a League1 Ontario All-star for Vaughan Azzurri.

Mannella’s move to midfield gave Fury FC a little more physicality in the centre of the park, but he crossed the line when he placed his hands on Red Bulls II’s midfielder Andrew Tinari’s face in a scuffle after the whistle had been blown in the 66th minute resulting in Mannella’s dismissal.

After going down to ten men, Red Bulls II packed on the pressure for the final 15 minutes, but Fury FC didn’t break and was even dangerous on the counter-attack with Adonijah Reid and Kévin Oliveira.

Fury FC’s best chances came from shots outside of the box from Oliveira and Christian Portilla in the 63rd and 84th minutes.

Fury FC fought through injuries to earn the draw: Tony Taylor and Onua Obasi were substituted before the start of the second-half, Crépeau sought out treatment for his knee but remained in the game and Eddie Edward persevered through a hip injury that he sustained during the game. Considering the injuries, Mannella’s dismissal and the opponents, Fury FC players and coaches were happy to come away with one point on Wednesday.

“We played against an MLS [calibre] team who didn’t play on Saturday, and we played with ten men. I think we can be proud of our team and the way they fought. When we speak about the foundation and the culture, this is the most important thing – that we fight," said Head Coach Nikola Popovic after the game.

School Day Game: A treat for kids, parents and teachers

Kids flooded into TD Place moments before the game started with live music playing and a buzz in the air. The great community event put on by Fury FC welcomed students from 49 different schools across Ottawa. The stadium's seats and concourse area were full as kids cheered on the Fury FC players, participated in activities and bought treats at the concessions.

Jamar Dixon, an Ottawa native, expressed his excitement for the match in front of the school kids a day before. 

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Last season was the first time we did it. It was amazing, and it was a great day for the kids.

“They were cheering from the 1st minute to the 90th minute. It was excellent.”

The School Day Game was very well received by parents and teachers who were on chaperone duty for the day. Some kids were just happy to get the day off, but the day was also a great opportunity to expose young kids to soccer and the Ottawa Fury FC.

“Not all the kids get the opportunity to go to games,” said Donald, a Grade 4 teacher from Agincourt Road Public School.

“It’s great for the community, great for the sport, great for [Ottawa Fury FC].”

Parents thought the event was “fantastic” and “well-organized”, as well as fun opportunity to learn about soccer with their kids.

Popovic loved the atmosphere and sees the potential for the sport to grow in the city.

“Fantastic! We have the potential to be a fantastic environment for soccer, but there are some things that need to be created. We have to give time, but today’s the proof that we can do something very beautiful here in Ottawa.”

What’s next?

Fury FC is on the road next against Penn FC on Monday, May 7th as they continue to search for their first win of the 2018 USL season.