Ottawa Fury eke out first leg victory over AS Blainville in the Canadian Championship
Photo credit: Canada Soccer
The 2018 Canadian Championship, for the first time in the competition’s history, included semi-professional teams along with professional teams from MLS and the USL.
Ottawa Fury FC travelled to Laval to face AS Blainville, a semi-professional team from the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ), at Desjardins Stadium on Wednesday night to play in the 2018 Canadian Championship Second Qualifying Round first leg.
The match was a showcase of the work being done at the grassroots and professional levels in Canadian soccer. Out of the 22 players that started the game for both teams, 17 were Canadian.
Ottawa Fury won the game 1-0 but AS Blainville provided a challenge the entire game.
AS Blainville steps up to challenge
The match was the first of its kind in Canadian soccer, but the heavy underdogs stepped up to the challenge and gave Fury FC a lot of problems on the night.
Despite the weight of the moment, AS Blainville rose to the occasion and played with courage, competitiveness and skill.
Fury FC started well and struck the back of the net in the first minute of the match when Adonijah Reid floated a long pass towards Tony Taylor who used his speed to latch on to the ball and slot it into the bottom left corner past ASB’s goalkeeper Erwann Ofouya.
The goal was a shock to AS Blainville’s system and could’ve led to an awful night for the semi-professional team. But, credit to the AS Blainville’s players, they rallied and took the game to Fury FC for the remainder of the match.
The AS Blainville players were flying into tackles and fouling often, to the frustration of the Fury FC players, but it was that physicality that slowly turned the tide of the match.
Fury FC responded to AS Blainville’s physicality with strong tackles of its own, in particular from Jamar Dixon, who received a yellow card in 40th minute, and Chris Mannella in the middle of the park.
AS Blainville created most of its chances from set pieces; Nazim Belguendouz, AS Blainville’s midfielder, put in several dangerous balls from set pieces that forced Maxime Crépeau into action and Thibaud Moulinas stretched Crépeau into a diving save in the 83rd minute from a direct free-kick.
If it was not for Crépeau, the recently voted USL Player of the Month for May, the score would have been very different.
In the end, Fury FC eked out the 1-0 win, even though they were outworked and outplayed on the night by an inferior team.
A great advert for Canadian “football”
The clouds in the sky threatened to pour rain but never did which made for a perfect night to play soccer. The setting sun in the background of Stade Desjardins with youth soccer players practicing on surrounding fields made for a perfect picture of Canadian soccer—or “football” as Fury FC Head Coach Nikola Popovic prefers to call it.
“I’m very happy to see so much quality in Canadian players. We had today a lot of Canadian players on [both sides of] the field. And I’m very happy to see how this competition is organized. To me, it smells more like football – European football. How it’s all put together, it’s a fantastic image of Canadian football.”
The night was a great advert for Canadian soccer and shows the commitment to create a link between the professional and amateur levels of the game, which will help grow Canadian soccer organically.
The product on the field was not the only promising aspect of the night. The game was also well supported by AS Blainville fans and travelling Fury FC fans.
With the Canadian Premier League slated to begin in Spring of 2019, it is encouraging to see supporters attend matches like these, that features predominantly Canadian players, in strong numbers like on Wednesday night.
Fury FC’s job is not done. AS Blainville will visit TD Place in Ottawa in one week on Wednesday, June 27 at 7:30 PM for the second leg of the Second Qualifying Round matchup.
The winner is determined by the aggregate score from both matches, so Fury FC currently holds the 1-0 advantage going into the second leg.
Before that, Fury FC will travel to New York to face Red Bulls II in the USL on Sunday, June 24 at 5:00 PM.
Fury FC needs to nip its two-game losing streak soon if they want to continue to compete for one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Currently, they sit twelfth with 15 points—six points out of eighth.