Ottawa Fury FC show effort and competitiveness in third loss of the season

By Devin Nguyen

The beginning of the season has been trying for all involved with the Ottawa Fury FC. The USL season starts in late March, a little too early for Ottawa’s tumultuous weather, which means the Fury’s first four games of the season had to be scheduled away from home. On top of that, the Fury FC have only been able to train indoors until a couple of weeks ago, which Head Coach Nikola Popovic says “is almost a different sport.”

The disrupted preseason schedule and the introduction of a new regime have translated into a slow start to the 2018 USL season for the team. After losing their first two games, the Fury FC lost their third game of the season this past weekend to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-0. In a scrappy game, the Riverhounds made a breakthrough in the 85th minute because of their persistence and supremacy in possession from a Tobi Adewole header.

Fury FC players fought valiantly all match at the Highmark Stadium along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh but posed little danger to the Riverhounds’ goal. The Riverhounds enjoyed over 60% of possession and had ten shots to the Fury’s three and were going into the game without conceding a single goal in their first three matches.

In an attempt to find a solution to the Fury FC’s early season woes, Popovic made five changes to the starting lineup from the last match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The most noteworthy change was Popovic’s decision to go with Montreal Impact loaned goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau instead of Callum Irving in goal. Crépeau comes to the team this season with MLS pedigree and after Irving allowed nine goals in the Fury’s first two matches, Crépeau got the nod. Crépeau was busy all night and was especially impressive making a reaction save from a close-range shot from Riverhounds’ striker Nico Brett early in the second-half.

There were few positives to be taken from the Fury’s third match of the season. Another member of the Ottawa Fury was dismissed from the game this weekend. Last week, Onua Obasi was sent off late in the game for a poor tackle and this week, assistant coach Victor Oppong was dismissed for getting into a wrestling match with a Riverhound player trying to get the ball for a throw-in.

The players looked unprepared and unorganized. With the ball, the Fury were forced into backwards passes and speculative inaccurate long balls—a far cry from the possession style of play Popovic is trying to implement. But, what the Fury players lacked in cohesion, they made up for in effort as they fought until the final whistle—a sign that the players have belief in their new Head Coach.

It’s still early and Popovic and General Manager Julian de Guzman are still trying to build a strong foundation on which a style of play can be built upon. Patience will be key for fans, players and coaches if the current project is going to be successful. At this point it is important to see growth instead of results. It takes time to grow a strong organizational culture, which Popovic says “[he and de Guzman] are starting from zero”—an indictment against the Fury’s previous regimes.

Fans and onlookers will give Popovic and de Guzman the courtesy of time to build the culture and style of play that they are seeking to create at the Fury.

A lot of the inconstancies and problems seen in the Fury’s first three games will be forgiven if they are able to have a positive showing in next weekend’s home opener on April 21st in a brand-new home kit.