PHOTOS: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography/Ottawa Fury FC
By Théo Gauthier
The measure of a team’s form isn’t always reflected in the final score.
The Ottawa Fury fell 1-0 to the Charlotte Independence at Lansdowne on Saturday night, bringing to an end a streak of six unbeaten matches and 632 minutes without conceding a goal—only 16 minutes shy of the club record.
“We felt we were really on it,” said Fury left back Onua Obasi in his post-match comments. “It’s even more disappointing that we got two wins and then we lost the one that we felt we were on it.”
The early stages of the game played out as a tactical battle between Fury Head Coach Nikola Popovic and Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries, with both trying to get a sense of what the other was trying to do and probing to find weaknesses to exploit. The Fury have traditionally lined up in a 4-3-3, and although they continued in that formation on offence, any time they lost the ball they transitioned to a 4-4-2 with Adonijah Reid dropping back into midfield. “We knew that they are very, very good in some areas on the field,” Popovic explained during the post-match press conference. “We tried to cover that; they understood. It was a chess match. I think that’s why the game wasn’t very beautiful (for those) watching here in the stands, but it’s how it’s played it.”
The Fury appeared to get stronger as the match progressed, and the crowd of 5,693 seemed to grow into the game, matching the home team’s output. Unfortunately for them, the Fury conceded in the 79th minute on a goal by French-Ivorian Yann Ekra. As far as streak-ending goals go, this one was a clunker. With the Fury back four freezing in an attempt to catch Eamon Zayed offside, Independence striker Jorge Herrera floated a pass to the former Indy Eleven striker. The Fury players seemed to stop for a heartbeat as they appealed for an offside call that wouldn’t come, which gave Zayed all the time he needed to cross the ball back into the 18-yard box. Herrera won the header from Chris Mannella, the ball fell to Ekra at the top of the box, and his ensuing shot deflected off a desperate slide tackle from Kévin Oliveira. The deflected ball looped into the air, its arc perfectly angled to avoid any Fury defenders and a diving Maxime Crépeau, nestling into the back of the Fury goal. Charlotte had just stuck a pin in the Ottawa balloon.
Shortly before conceding, the Fury bench—and the soccer-savvy crowd—erupted when it appeared Independence defender Lee Jung-Soo, under pressure from Steevan Dos Santos, illegally passed the ball back to his keeper. The apparent mental lapse by Independence keeper Andrew Dykstra—had it been called—would have led to an indirect freekick inside the Charlotte 18-yard box. Not a guaranteed Fury goal by any stretch, but yet another way to put the Independence defence under intense pressure.
The loss may come as a disappointment to a Fury following that was beginning to believe something special was brewing in the Glebe. There were undoubtedly shades of 2015 during the Fury’s run of unbeaten matches, and Sunday may have dawned feeling like a little bit of colour had bled out of the world. But a case can be made that a 1-0 loss to Charlotte—in a match where the Fury players executed their plan to the coach’s specifications—is a continuation of that good run, especially when you consider they had fallen 4-1 to the same team in their first match of the season.
- The match was the last Fury home game until the second leg of its second round Voyageurs Cup match against either AS Blainville of Laval or the Oakville Blue Devils on June 27th. The Première Ligue de soccer du Québec champions are squaring off in the first of two legs against the Ontario League One champions for the privilege of facing the Fury starting June 20th. It’s the first year that the Voyageurs Cup (sometimes referred to as the Canadian Championship) has expanded to include clubs from the development leagues.
- Fury brass will have been pleased with the uptick in attendance on a gorgeous Saturday night in Ottawa which had plenty of events competing for attention.
- Jimmy Sannon made a substitute appearance for the Fury, following his whirlwind trip halfway across the world to Buenos Aires. He featured for 45 minutes for Haiti against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a World Cup warmup. He even got a souvenir!
- Sanon is now one of two current Fury players to have faced the greatest player of all time. Cristian Portilla played 70 minutes for Sporting Gijón in a La Liga match against Barcelona on January 30th, 2010.
- Saturday marked the third straight match without Colin Falvey in the starting lineup. He hasn’t been showing up on the injury report, but we’re told he is not 100%. He has appeared as an unused sub for the past two matches.
- Fury FC Man of the Match: Carl Haworth. The club captain has been kept off the scoresheet for most of the season, but his tireless work stands out in every match. Saturday was no different. He has an incredible engine and puts it to use coming back to help his teammates defend. He makes key interventions and it always seems as though he’s in the right place at the right time. It’s no wonder he’s a crowd favourite.