PHOTOS: New York Red Bulls II
By Théo Gauthier
If the Ottawa Fury are to make the playoffs in 2018, they will have done so the hard way.
On Friday night in Montclair, New Jersey, the Fury were dealt a blow to their fading playoff ambitions by way of a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls II. The loss is their third in succession and the fourth match in a row without scoring. For those counting at home, that’s a goal drought of 366 minutes going back to Tony Taylor’s 84th-minute strike against the Richmond Kickers on August 15th.
It was Tony Taylor who would come closest to lifting the Fury’s scoring hex. In the 32nd minute, Carl Haworth dribbled his way parallel to goal, drawing the Red Bulls defenders and creating space to his right for Taylor. Haworth served up Taylor with a perfectly weighted pass inside the 18-yard box. Taylor let go a powerful strike and rattled the woodwork. Despite a spirited effort from the Ottawa squad, thrilling come-from-behind wins are not a regular menu item in 2018 at Nikola’s Diner, and the Fury would fail to trouble the Red Bulls.
In fact, if not for keeper Maxime Crépeau’s heroics, the Fury’s pride could have suffered much graver injury. The Red Bulls peppered the Fury goal with 22 shots on the night, six of them which were on target. Amongst a variety of saves and interceptions, Crépeau had to muster all his goalkeeping superpowers when he saved a well-struck penalty kick from Anatole Abang. Coming off a handball and sending off for right-back Eddie Edward in the 54th minute—who will now miss Thursday’s match against Toronto FC II—Abang fired his shot low to the ground to Crépeau’s right. The Canadian international—Crépeau learned this week that he would be joining John Herdman’s squad to face the US Virgin Islands on September 9th in Florida—correctly read the direction of the shot and parried the ball to safety.
As summer slowly turns to fall, Crépeau’s future is likely to be the topic of much discussion in Fury circles. Without a doubt the season’s MVP (unless something dramatic happens in the goalscoring department), it’s reasonable to believe that Crépeau will be looking to parlay his breakthrough season into playing time at a bigger club. Whether that happens in MLS or elsewhere has yet to be determined. According to Montreal Impact beat reporter Nicolas Martineau, Impact Head Coach Rémi Garde has not taken the time to check in on Crépeau’s performances with the Fury, this despite #1 keeper Evan Bush’s contract coming to term following the 2018 MLS season. By the sounds of it, Crépeau isn’t being looked at as a viable option to replace Bush.
It’s impossible to gauge where the Fury would be without Crépeau. David Monsalve and Callum Irving may have thrived under the tutelage of Fury Goalkeeper Coach Youssef Dahha just as Crépeau has, but it’s likely that some of the Fury’s gains wouldn’t have been as plentiful without the man from Greenfield Park, Québec. The Fury will get a preview of life without Crépeau when as he joins the Canadian National Men’s team training camp for the next 10 days.
The good ship HMCS Fury is not sunk just yet, but without an offensive turnaround in these final six matches of the regular season, what once looked like a promising upward trajectory is looking to be torpedoed by a lack of offensive punch.
If Nikola Popovic has some offensive tricks up his sleeve, he has no choice but to deploy them immediately in order to save the 2018 season.
- Canadian international and former Queen’s Park Rangers winger Michael Petrasso is the latest Montreal Impact player to be sent to Ottawa, a move that looked likely to happen once the Impact signed right-back Bacary Sagna. It’s hard to gauge where Petrasso will fit into the Fury lineup. Although used as a right wing-back by the Impact and Benito Floro’s Canadian Men’s team, Petrasso’s best years were in an advanced position at QPR. Could he be the key the Fury need to unlock opposing defences?
- A lot of Fury angst, found on social media and local talk radio, seems to be directed at Popovic. The arguments supporting this growing anger at the Fury skipper are not without merit, but I’m from the school of thought where you give a coach or manager more than one season to rebuild a team—unless that first year is an unmitigated disaster. For me, we’re not there. Not even close.
- Most of the anger towards Popovic stems from the club’s offensive woes, but a lot of it also has to do with how fan-favourite Colin Falvey was treated for his second go-round with the Fury. Falvey was released this week, and we wish him the absolute best in his next destination. It is to Falvey’s credit that he continued to be as professional as he was despite being exiled from the squad. His departure allows the club to put this sad chapter behind them and makes for one less distraction.
- The hand-wringing surrounding the Fury extends to its intentions for 2019, which remain unclear. The club hasn’t come straight out and said it would be playing in USL next year, but it’s getting late in the game to jump on board the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural season.
- On Thursday, the Fury play Toronto FC II in Toronto before returning to Ottawa to play a friendly in the Capital City Cup against the Montreal Impact. What the lineup will look like the day after a must-win match against the Conference’s whipping boy is open to question. Are we looking at a clash of B teams? Quite possibly.
- Fury Man of the Match: Maxime Crépeau. The Fury would be riding high in the standings if they had found some offensive power to match Crépeau’s prowess this season. The Fury keeper leads the league with 12 clean sheets and ranks sixth in saves with 67.