Pieces are coming together for Ottawa Fury FC in 1-1 draw against North Carolina FC

Photo by Ottawa Fury FC / Matt Zambonin – Freestyle Photography

Ottawa Fury FC welcomed their home fans this weekend for the first time of the season on a beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon at TD Place. The stadium was buzzing before Fury FC’s home opener with 6, 137 fans attending the match, some sporting the brand-new home jersey.

The Match

Fury FC got the 1-1 draw from an 86th minute Christian Portilla corner-kick that was fumbled into the North Carolina FC goal by opposing goalkeeper Alexandros Tambakis. Despite having to come from behind to secure Fury FC’s first point of the season, Fury FC looked the better team and played a fluent passing style of soccer with the majority of possession for the entire match.

North Carolina FC struggled to get into the game but took the lead with a sharp combination of passes inside the Fury FC’s box that set up Daniel Ríos to score in the 35th minute. Ríos gave Maxime Crépeau little chance to make a save as he side-footed the ball into the top corner. Other than speculative crosses, Crépeau wasn’t too busied by the North Carolina FC strikers for the rest of the match.

Equally, for all of Fury FC’s solid possession, Fury FC struggled to find the openings and opportunities to busy Tambakis in the opposition net. With no shots on net for the first 85 minutes of the match, it was difficult to see a Fury FC equalizer coming. It was in the final five minutes when they applied most of their pressure and scored their goal with help from substitute Carl Haworth’s energy off the bench. Even though as a team Fury FC lacked that incisiveness in the attacking end, many Fury FC players were able to show their good qualities with the ball, especially in the second-half.

Kevin Oliveira was an energetic presence in midfield. He kept the ball well under pressure and always looked forward when he had the opportunity. Also, he was dangerous from freekicks hitting the post twice, once with a cheeky freekick from a tight angle early in the first-half.

The eighteen-year-old Adonijah Reid impressed as well. He took his opportunity starting for the first time this season playing well on the right side of a forward front-three. Reid was making dangerous runs behind the North Carolina FC defence all game and looked capable of beating his defender off the dribble.

A New Style of Play

The possession style of play Head Coach Nikola Popovic is trying to implement is starting to take shape as he begins to find the right players for very specific roles in his 4-3-3 formation.

Portilla as the deepest midfielder looks comfortable dropping back in between the Fury FC centre-backs to receive the ball and sending a long pass to a winger making a forward run. The next step for Portilla will be to look to find his midfield teammates more often.

Tony Taylor got the start at centre-forward; the third centre-forward Popovic has experimented with this season in only four games. Taylor looks like he fits Popovic’s style the best so far as he was comfortable dropping deep and combining with his teammates in the style of a false 9.

What Popovic is trying to accomplish stylistically, akin to the style of soccer played by some of the world’s best teams, will take time for the Fury FC players to master. Popovic knows this, as he said after the match, “It’s coming, we’re getting a little more consistency. But I think we’re still far from the way I want this team to play.”

What’s next?

Fury FC’s equalizing goal came in a stroke of good fortune, but it was deserved on the balance of play throughout the game. They did not deserve to lose the game by any means. Fury FC looked much improved in their home opener in comparison to their previous three away matches and it is only fair to expect Fury FC’s results to improve as the players become more comfortable with Popovic’s nuanced system.

After this weekend’s match, Fury FC will enjoy two consecutive matches at home against Cincinnati FC and New York Red Bulls II. With the Ottawa weather now picking up as we enter the middle of spring, hopefully, Fury FC’s results will do the same.