Ottawa Fury host MLS champions Toronto FC in Canadian Championship semi-final first leg on Wednesday night

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

The reigning MLS champions Toronto FC visit TD Place on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at 7:30 PM for the Canadian Championship semi-final first leg against Ottawa Fury.

Ottawa Fury is coming off of a triumphant come from behind victory over Penn FC scoring two unanswered goals to win 2-1. Nikola Popovic’s team have been progressing nicely in his first season in charge and will have an opportunity to show the Canadian soccer fans the distinctly Canadian soccer project taking place in Ottawa.

If Fury FC is going to beat Toronto FC over two legs, this is the time to do it as Toronto FC is experiencing a rotten run of form as of late.

Toronto FC there for the taking

It has been a puzzling season for Toronto FC. After winning the 2017 MLS Cup, Toronto FC entered the 2018 season with its eyes on another prize: the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League–a competition involving teams from all over North and Central America.

The competition is usually dominated by clubs from Lisa MX–Mexico’s highest level of soccer. This year, Toronto FC made a foray into the finals beating Mexican sides UANL and Club America and faced Guadalajara in the finals.

Winning the CONCACAF Champions League would have been quite the achievement considering only two MLS teams have won the honour (LA Galaxy and DC United) and only one other Canadian team (Montreal Impact) has made the finals in the past.

The final was at stalemates after 180 minutes of play over two legs. In the deciding penalty shootout, Guadalajara ultimately prevailed.

With their attention fixed on the Champions League, Toronto FC’s form in MLS play suffered and they haven’t been able to recover since.

Toronto FC currently sits second last in the MLS Eastern Conference standings and 11 points out of a wild-card spot. They are winless in their last six matches with 4 losses and 2 draws.

Injuries to key players like Jozy Altidore and Drew Moor has contributed to the team’s bad play, but Altidore could feature against Fury FC as he was on the substitutes bench in TFC’s last match against Orlando City FC.

With TFC’s MLS playoff hopes falling by wayside, the Canadian Championship may be the team’s central focus for the rest of the season.

A golden opportunity for Ottawa Fury to show off Canadian project

Head Coach Nikola Popovic and General Manager Julian de Guzman have been working hard to push a certain culture at Ottawa Fury–a Canadian soccer culture.

Fury FC regularly fields a starting eleven with a majority of Canadian players and Popovic is excited to give those players an opportunity to shine against top opposition.

“This is a very important competition for us. As you know, with our Project and trying to be the reference of Canadian football, this Canadian Championship is very important for us,” said Popovic.

Fury FC defeated TFC in the first leg at TD Place at the same juncture of the competition last year but couldn’t finish the job on the road in Toronto. Fury FC will field a drastically different team this year with only 3 players still on the roster.

It will be vitally important for Fury FC to make the most of the first leg on home turf. Last season a 2-1 victory at TD Place wasn’t enough as TFC blew Fury FC out 4-0 at BMO Field.

Canadian content

Fury FC has also added to its Canadian content with two signings: Daniel Haber from Toronto, ON and Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé from Sherbrooke, QC.

Several players on Fury FC have experience at the MLS level and with Toronto FC specifically, such as Chris Mannella, David Monsalve and Nana Attakora, and not to mention GM Julian de Guzman.

Attakora spoke about his experience in the competition with Toronto FC.

“This is a big competition – the best teams in Canada, all the professional teams in Canada – and this is a competition I’ve been a part of since an early age with Toronto, I had some success there and now I hope I can bring some success to Ottawa.”

Ottawa Fury will potentially field a starting lineup with six or seven Canadian players. Toronto FC also might field a Canadian filled starting lineup with a number of young players like Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser and Jordan Hamilton.

The other side of the bracket sees the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact face off against each other.

Fury FC has a great opportunity to show off its Canadian soccer project against the most successful soccer club in the country.