Ottawa Fury get 2-0 win during I Heart Soccer Week

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

Ottawa Fury FC wins in the first of two games a part of the club’s I Heart Soccer Week against the Richmond Kickers on Wednesday night at TD Place.

Head Coach Nikola Popovic was able to reinvigorate the team with a couple of changes to the starting lineup with players returning from injury and new signings being added to the squad.

In an important match with USL playoff implications, Fury FC won 2-0 over a struggling Kickers team who sit 14th in the USL Eastern Conference standings.

Fury FC back home and back on track

Coming into the match on Wednesday night on the outside of the playoff spots (9th,) Fury FC needed to get a positive result against a weak Richmond Kickers team. Fury FC benefited from a rejigged starting lineup that included a return from injury for club captain Carl Haworth and a first start for new signing Daniel Kinumbe.

The 19-year-old Kinumbe added freshness and energy on the left-wing, but Haworth’s inclusion was especially influential as he scored in the 8th minute from a free-kick, something he has done before this season.

With the early lead, Nikola Popovic’s team was able to concede possession but still control the game with a mid-defensive block and remain dangerous on the counter-attack.

Opportunities came in the 42nd minute from Haworth and in the 53rd minute from Tony Taylor, both from counter-attacks. Taylor especially should have scored as he bared down on goal one on one with Kickers goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg after a long Maxime Crépeau throw, but his heavy touch allowed Spangenberg to dive down to make the telling challenge to keep the score 1-0.

Kickers struggled to create any chances against one of the USL’s best defensive teams but Crépeau was tested in the 83rd minute from a Heviel Cordovés shot that Crépeau touched over the bar to maintain Fury FC’s lead. The clean sheet is Crépeau’s eleventh of the season.

Just a minute later Ottawa Fury sealed the win when second-half substitute Steevan Dos Santos streaked down the left wing and squared the ball across the box for an oncoming Taylor who had a wide-open net to tap into to finish the match at 2-0.

Fury FC give back during I Heart Soccer Week

In an initiative to give back to the Ottawa community, Fury FC has dedicated a week (August 13 to 19) full of events and fan engagement to share their love for the beautiful game.

The week of events began on Monday with a Fan Festival at TD Place Stadium which featured games, contests and prizes and special appearances from Fury FC players and Fury FC’s mascot Sparky. The festivities continued on Tuesday with several surprise appearances from players around the Ottawa area at summer camps and youth soccer clinics.

The week’s good spirit continues with the win on Wednesday and with Blind Soccer Clinic in partnership with Ottawa Blind Soccer at TD Place on Thursday, Sparky’s Blitz on Friday, an important match in the USL versus Indy Eleven on Saturday and TD Place playing host to several youth soccer cup finals on Sunday.

USL Eastern Conference playoff picture

After the win Fury FC would have moved up to 6th, but a late Juan Francisco Guerra goal in 90th minute for Indy Eleven on Wednesday night means Fury FC, instead, move up to 7th after Wednesday night’s win but is at risk of falling to 8th if Bethlehem Steel get a win on Thursday over TFC II.

Ottawa Fury’s next two matches can be considered “six-pointers” as they face direct playoff spot rivals in Indy Eleven and Bethlehem Steel.

There are still a lot of points available to be won with ten games remaining, but in a tight playoff race, every point will mater from here on out.

Haworth knows the importance of every win down the stretch and made it clear to his teammates before the match on Wednesday.

“I said to the guys right before this game. Our playoffs start right now. Every game is a must-win for us.

“Indy [Eleven] this weekend. Huge game. Bethlehem [Steel] next week, so they don’t get any easier.

“They are all must-win.”

With a decent 8-3-2 home record at TD Place this season, it will be important for Haworth and Fury FC to make the most of their upcoming home fixtures, especially with a run of five away matches in a row starting with the New York Red Bulls II on August 31.

“We can’t afford to drop any points, especially at home,” said Haworth after the match.

 “We’ve always played well here historically. It’s a bit of a fortress here [at TD Place].”

Fury FC will set out to defend its fortress again this weekend when they host Indy Eleven on Saturday, August 18, 2018, at 2:00 PM at TD Place as they continue to push for the playoffs.