PHOTO: Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography
By Théo Gauthier
The summer grind was bound to catch up to the Ottawa Fury, and it appeared to have done so on a humid Saturday afternoon at TD Place as they were defeated 3-0 by Louisville City FC.
Early on, the defending USL Cup champions looked spry and active compared to their hosts and pressed their advantage in the energy department to force some mistakes from the Fury’s back line. It was a back line which saw a significant change due to centre-back Thomas Meilleur-Giguère picking up a knock this week and replaced in the starting eleven with Sergio Manesio.
If there’s one aspect of the Fury’s game that can be pointed to as problematic this season, it’s their vulnerability on set pieces. That bugaboo reared its head early as the Fury fell behind in the 13th minute when Paolo Del Piccolo pounced on an Oscar Jimenez corner kick to send the ball past Fury keeper Maxime Crépeau, who could only watch in despair and pick the unpleasant guest out of his net.
The Fury came close to equalising a few minutes later when Steevan Dos Santos muscled Louisville’s defenders away for just long enough to lay in a pass to Tony Taylor. Taylor collected, weaved his way into the right side of the 18-yard box and let go a powerful right-footed shot that whizzed by the left post.
The score would remain 1-0 going into the break, but wouldn’t stay that way for long once play resumed. The opportunity once again came off Oscar Jimenez’s cultured right foot, and once again from a set piece—this time from a free kick. No less than two Louisville players found themselves breaking through the Fury defensive line, but it was Paco Craig would leave Onua Obasi in his dust and tap in from nine yards.
Ten minutes later, the Fury would get caught standing around as Los Morados darted around them and put the game beyond reach with a goal from Devon Williams.
Of all three Louisville goals, however, the second one right after halftime stuck in Crépeau’s craw. “We’re at a point in the season where we can’t lose in that manner anymore,” the Fury shot-stopper said after the match, exasperation seeming to bubble just under the surface. “It’s about set pieces. It was a game that was right there for us. It’s right after halftime; everyone’s fresh, we’ve just talked in the locker room about winning battles on set pieces. We know Louisville’s a good team in this (respect). How many times is this going to happen?” he asked, appearing to address his teammates. “We need to learn right now. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and tell the truth without hiding behind a tree. Face to face, we have to man-up.”
Fury Head Coach Nikola Popovic has been hammering a few recurring themes into his squad since the beginning of the season; belief and a willingness to fight until the end. Although much was left to be desired over the course of this most recent 90-minute display from the men in black and red, Popovic was quick to point out that his squad kept working hard deep into stoppage time despite the deficit and their tired legs. “Watching them play the last part of the game, believing it was possible to make a comeback: we are very proud about the way they fought until the end,” said Popovic. “I remind you of our earlier games when we would concede, and we didn’t fight. Here, it was different. What is important for us is that we fought until the end and the guys tried until the last minute.”
The Fury will benefit from six consecutive days without a match for only the second time since May 19th as they prepare to host the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Friday night at TD Place.
The reprieve is well-earned and should help to mend a hurting squad.
- Nikola Popovic will have to wait a little longer to avenge his 2017 USL Cup defeat to Louisville City FC. The Fury’s next match against Los Morados is September 22nd in Kentucky.
- There were many outward displays of frustration from Fury players on Saturday afternoon. One of them which stuck out was when Jamar Dixon—who has captained the side in Carl Haworth’s absence through injury— just about lost it on some of his teammates for stopping their counter-attack when they saw a Louisville player down with an apparent injury. The onus on stopping play in these situations is on the referee, and Dixon wasn’t shy about reminding his teammates to keep their heads in the game.
- Adonijah Reid drew a red card in the 77th minute after fouling Paolo Del Piccolo. Louisville defender Alexis Souahy, leaping to his captain’s defence, grabbed the young Canadian by the throat. That’s a no-no, and the referee sent him off for an early shower.
- Jimmy Sanon has looked good when coming off the bench for the Fury. His pace ends up being a handful for tired defences. Can he do it over 90 minutes, one wonders?
- Plenty of canines showed up for the Fury’s promotional “Bring Your Dog To The Game” day, but one of them was particularly adorable.
Fury Man of the Match: Cristian Portilla. That’s back-to-back 3-0 defeats in which Portilla earns our Man of the Match plaudits. He’ll be hoping to decouple those two facts as soon as possible.