Popovic calls for support after Ottawa Fury FC defeat Bethlehem Steel FC 1-0

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

Ottawa Fury FC got to an early start on Friday night at TD Place scoring in the opening minute of the game. That lone goal was all Fury FC needed to come away with all three points against Bethlehem Steel FC. After another positive result, Head Coach Nikola Popovic feels his team is not being embraced.

Fifth clean sheet for Fury FC

Fury FC's recent run of positive results—three wins and two draws in the last five games—has come off the back of the team's strong defensive resilience. After Friday's win, it is now 463 minutes since Fury FC has conceded a goal.

The difference on the night came in the 1st minute when Kévin Oliveira received the ball from Steevan Dos Santos on the left-wing. Oliveira continued into Steel FC's penalty-area and cleverly toe-poked the ball past Steel FC goalkeeper Jake McGuire.

This week, Nana Attakora and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère—two Canadians—made up the centre-back partnership for Fury FC. Meilleur-Giguère started his fourth game in a row— the second start at centre-back—and Attakora made his début for Fury FC, which was delayed because of injury. Attakora wasn't shy in his début, throwing his weight around making clearances and tackles. His most impressive play came in the 42nd minute when he made a last-ditch tackle on Steel FC's Santi Moar who had an open goal to equalize the score. Moar seemed sure that Attakora fouled him, but Attakora got all the ball before clattering through the Steel FC attacker.

Steel FC was on its own run of positive form coming into Friday's match with two consecutive wins and posed a real threat to Fury FC. Both teams played positive attacking soccer, which resulted in opportunities to score for both teams.

Carl Haworth was among the chances for Fury FC hitting the outside frame of the goal on three different occasions and should have added to Fury FC's score at least twice. Oliveira and Christian Portilla had attempts from outside of the penalty-area which McGuire saved well in the 77th and 87th minutes.

In the end, Steel FC packed on the pressure as they looked for the equalizer, but Fury FC stayed resilient for the entire 90 minutes. Steel FC's best chance in the second-half came from a fizzed shot by Jeremy Rafanello in the 70th minute, which Maxime Crépeau athletically touched over the bar. At the final whistle, Fury FC players and coaches celebrated jubilantly after another positive result and another step in the right direction.

Popovic fiery in the post-game press conference

After a slow start to the season and now a run of positive results, Head Coach Nikola Popovic shot back at his and the team's critics after Friday's win.

Instead of answering the question, Popovic decided to turn the tables and ask the questions to begin the press conference.

"How many Canadian players did we have in our starting eleven? How many clean sheets? Who likes football in Canada and who wants to develop this game? You should fight for what's yours and I don't feel this from the press. I don't [see anybody] embracing this project."

Even with the positive results as of late, Popovic believes his and General Manager Julian de Guzman's project to develop Fury FC into a "reference for Canadian [soccer]" will take a lot more time.

"I'm very happy for Julian de Guzman. He has been fighting against a lot of people to maintain this project and to maintain seventeen Canadian players on the roster.

"It is not now because we win five games, or we have five good results that we are the best.

"It's a process. It's going to take much more time than this because this is a completely new coach, a new team, a new general manager. 

"But, I think what [we] have here is something everybody should embrace.

He ended by commenting on Canadian soccer.

"Embrace Canadian [soccer]. You have fantastic talent. You have a lot of talent that is wasted, that don't have a chance to play. Give these players a chance to miss sometimes, to fail sometimes, to lose a game sometimes, but in the long [run] we will have a lot of good quality player in Canada. I believe that."

What's next

Fury FC will play Toronto FC II at 7:00 PM, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at TD Place. Rescheduled from earlier in the season, Fury FC's upcoming game will be a great opportunity to continue Fury FC's rise up the USL Eastern Conference standings. Fury FC now sits 11th, only two points out of a playoff spot.