A mad final fifteen minutes sees Ottawa win 2-0 over Nashville SC

Photo credit: Steve Kingsman / Freestyle Photography / Ottawa Fury FC

It was only fitting to have rock music playing in the background from the Algonquin College Rebelfest when Ottawa Fury FC hosted Music City’s own Nashville SC on Saturday night at TD Place.

After the spotlight of Fury FC’s midweek match versus Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship with the elevated level of opposition, the national media attention and the packed crowd, Fury FC returned to normalcy in front of a healthy crowd of 4,267.

The game was slow under the evening sun in the first-half. Fury FC was especially lethargic because of the intense midweek bout against Toronto FC.

After the sunset, both teams played with more energy culminating in an action-packed final ten minutes plus injury time which included a dubious penalty call, a missed penalty, a sending off and two Fury FC goals ending the match in a 2-0 win for the home team.

Fifteen minutes shape the entire match

The results of a soccer game can change on a drop of a dime. On the balance of the game on Saturday, both Fury FC and Nashville SC played evenly with little to note for the first 80 minutes of the game, but an eventful final fifteen minutes shaped the outcome of the match and maybe the outcome of the season.

The first eighty minutes of the match was extremely uneventful. Fury FC looked weary from its midweek match against TFC even with two changes to the squad—Christian Portilla in for Chris Mannella and Daniel Haber in for Adonijah Reid.

As the temperature cooled and the sun set behind the Ottawa skyline and the music from the nearby Rebelfest subsided, energy levels picked up and resulted in an exhilarating final ten minutes plus five minutes of injury time.

First, in the 81st-minute referee Juan Márquez awarded Nashville SC a questionable penalty-kick for a handball on Nana Attakora. The ball ricocheted off a nearby Nashville SC player from Attakora’s attempted clearance and hit Attakora’s hand from an extremely close distance. If the USL employed Video Assistant Referees like in the World Cup that just passed, the penalty award would surely be overturned.

Alan Winn’s penalty struck the bar and Fury FC had a renewed sense of belief. The rest of the match was one-way traffic.

The two Fury FC goals were two of the team’s best goals this season. The first was a considered passing move that started with Kévin Oliveira’s entry pass into the penalty area towards Jimmy Sanon. Sanon inside the six-yard box unselfishly laid the ball back for an incoming Tony Taylor who dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

Taylor has impressed mightily after returning to the starting lineup coming in for injured players. On the day, Taylor thoroughly deserved the goal as he was one of the only dangerous players on the field for Fury FC from start to finish.

Oliveira nabbed Fury FC’s second goal after Nashville’s London Woodbury picked up his second yellow card for a dangerous high foot that caught Taylor in the chest. The tackle was reminiscent of Nigel de Jong’s infamous tackle on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final.

On the other hand, you would be hard pressed to find many goals at this year’s World Cup better than Oliveira’s goal on Saturday. After picking a loose ball up in midfield, Oliveira fired a shot from just outside the penalty-area with his weaker left foot off the crossbar and into the net.

A player who sometimes chooses the wrong option choosing to shoot instead of passing to an open teammate, Oliveira can sometimes frustrate. This was one of the time Oliveira’s shoot-first mentality paid off.

The goal was celebrated with exuberant jubilation and was celebrated like a World Cup winner by players, coaches and fans.

Fury FC move into a playoff spot

There has been clear progress since the Head Coach Nikola Popovic joined Fury FC and Julian de Guzman was appointed General Manager this past December. After a slow start to the 2018 USL season, Fury FC now sits seventh in a playoff spot and Popovic believes it is down to his team’s fighting spirit and unified culture.

“We have a crucial game for us against [Toronto FC] in the Canadian Championship and coming [to TD Place] after less than 72 hours [of rest] and playing this way, I think we should be very, very proud.”

Popovic has never been shied away from expressing his opinions regarding the way journalists and the media perceive his team and him as a Head Coach. After an impressive win, Popovic was at it again.

“[Journalists] were expecting a change in seven days. And, then we lost the first game.

“Some of the journalists wrote things that I don’t understand. One of them asked me if it was time to panic.

“Only who don’t understand [soccer] and don’t understand the culture of [Fury FC] can think that [somebody] can come in and change the culture, change the model of play and start winning in seven days. I’m sorry these people are delusional.

“You have to see the subtext. The subjective part of the game, not only the stats and the scoreboard.”

Still, there is a long road ahead to fend off teams below them for the rest of the season and Head Coach Nikola Popovic is painfully aware of that.

“Even now that we are in a playoff spot, we can still lose this spot.

“It’s a long competition and [we] have to fight until the end.”

What’s next?

The second leg of Fury FC’s Canadian Championship semi-final versus Toronto FC is next on Ottawa Fury’s busy schedule on Wednesday, July 25, at 7:30 PM.

The first leg was overshadowed by the crowd incident involving TFC fans. Hopefully, the animosity in the stands last week doesn’t spill over to the second leg.

Ottawa Fury has to overturn a 1-0 deficit away at BMO Field. Last year, at the same stage of the competition TFC beat Fury FC 4-0 and 5-2 on aggregate.