Toronto FC bring the ‘fire’ to Ottawa in 1-0 victory over Fury FC in Canadian Championship semi-final first leg

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

The rivalry between Ottawa and Toronto sporting teams is long lasting. The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs have had historic bouts in the NHL playoffs and now it is Ottawa Fury FC’s and Toronto FC’s turn to continue the rich rivalry between the two cities.

It is only the third time Fury FC and TFC have faced off, but the action was antagonistic on and off the field in the Canadian Championship semi-final first leg on Wednesday night, which featured fourteen Canadians across both starting lineups.

Ottawa Fury behind the eight-ball after early jitters

When AS Blainville hosted Fury FC in the first leg of the previous round of the Canadian Championship, the amateur team started nervously against highly favoured opposition and conceded a goal in the opening minutes. Ottawa Fury was similarly nervous in the opening minutes against Toronto FC from MLS on Wednesday night and went behind early from a cheap goal and was unable to recover.

In front of over 6, 000 fans at TD place, the goal came from Fury FC’s inability to clear its lines in the 5th minute, which allowed Ryan Telfer to possess the ball in a dangerous area and find Jonathan Osorio at the top of the box. Osorio’s subsequent shot scuttled towards the net deflected by Nana Attakora and past Maxime Crépeau.

After the goal, the game became cagey with both teams wary of committing too many players in attack when in possession.

Adonijah Reid was his lively self and had the close attention of TFC’s defenders. He drew a number of fouls on the left side of the field, which allowed Kévin Oliveira to put in a number of dangerous crosses from set pieces.

Oliveira’s most dangerous free-kick was in the 37th minute but Thomas Meilleur-Giguère was unable to get his head onto the ball to direct it towards goal.

If Ottawa Fury was to score, it looked most likely that it would come from a set piece.

It was a careful and considered approach from Fury FC’s Head Coach Nikola Popovic. His team, when in possession, was not wasteful with the ball which is key against a talented team like TFC who can take advantage of the smallest mistakes.

It was more of the same in the second-half, but as time wore on Fury FC became more desperate to find the equalizer. Popovic could be seen in his technical area waving players forward and showing frustration when referee Silviu Petrescu made calls against Fury FC’s favour.

Ottawa Fury battled until the end despite the interruption in the 72nd minute from a fire that started in the stands and spilled onto the field from flares and firecrackers smuggled in by TFC supporters. The game was halted for nearly 5 minutes to tend to the issue.

Fury FC flew in crosses from all directions in the final minutes while security and Ottawa firefighters were tending to the damages.

The best chance came in the 85th minute from an Onua Obasi cross that was headed towards goal by Steevan Dos Santos. Clint Irwin was there to make the save.

Dark cloud looms over blossoming rivalry

The match was edgy from the start and a strong tackle from Obasi on Osorio had tempers flaring midway through the first-half. After the whistle scuffles and strong challenges dotted the match after that point.

The animosity spread to the stands. Fury FC supporters could be heard singing “Everybody hates Toronto. Hey, we hate Toronto” to the tune of “We’re Not Gonna to Take It” by Twisted Sisters but got out of hand when pyrotechnics and flares were being ignited by TFC supporters in the west corner of the North Stand.

The flares sparked, and the firecrackers banged eventually catching one of the banners brought by the TFC fans on fire. One of the flares was thrown on the pitch singeing a part of the turf. The flame was eventually put out by a fire extinguisher and the flare on the field was quickly picked up by a brave member of the TD Place security staff.

The unruly TFC fans dashed off into the night after being escorted out of the stadium as a cloud of smoke shrouded over the pitch.

Ottawa Fire Services arrived on the scene after the flame had been dealt with while the match was still in progress and Ottawa Police was seen after the match investigating the matter.

After the match, Toronto FC Head Coach Greg Vanney apologized on behalf of his club for the actions of its fans.

“On behalf of the club, we are embarrassed about the incident in the stands and it will be looked at by match commissioner and they will handle it accordingly, but from a club perspective, it just turned into an embarrassing scene, so we apologize.”

Still, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group will have to hold the bill for the unfortunate events as it was on its grounds that the event occurred. OSEG released an official statement following the game that reads:

What’s next?

Ottawa Fury will remain at home for its next match in the USL against Nashville SC on Saturday, July 21, 2018, at 7:00 PM before the team travels to Toronto for the second leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final.

Fury FC has a lot to do in the return leg at BMO Field but Popovic is buoyed by the fighting spirit his team showed on Wednesday night.

“We fought until the last second. That allows me to dream that it is possible to go there and score a goal and fight for the final.”

With the events that occurred on and off the field, the second leg is set up to be a must watch affair.