PHOTO: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography/Ottawa Fury FC
By Théo Gauthier
May 4, 2018
On Wednesday, the Ottawa Fury went down a man in the 66th minute but managed to hold the New York Red Bulls II to a 0-0 draw in front of a record USL School Day crowd of 8,081 young fans.
It was the Fury’s second point in what has been a tumultuous early season. The Fury find themselves at the foot of the USL table, tied for 32nd with Toronto FC II. The good news is that in the Eastern Conference, they’re only six points out of a playoff position; plenty of time to turn it around and make it into the type of season that was anticipated by the Fury and their supporters.
In his post-match comments, Fury FC head coach Nikola Popovic was positive about the result, citing the quality of the Red Bulls II squad: “We played against an MLS team who didn’t have a game on Saturday, unlike us, and we played with ten men. We can be proud of our team: the way that they fight, and when we speak about the foundation, about our (club’s) culture, I think it’s the most important thing. A team that will fight.”
The Fury had to fight especially hard against Red Bulls II, as they spent most of the match without the ball (34% possession), and a third of the match with ten men. The clean sheet is an important stepping stone for a club that’s still trying to confirm its identity. The addition of Doneil Henry to the Fury back four was felt immediately, as he set an early tone by pancaking American youngster Ben Mines for an aerial ball they were both intent on reaching. Henry, partnering with captain Colin Falvey, was a rock in the middle of the Fury defence. Henry’s inclusion in the starting lineup allowed Popovic to free Chris Mannella from central defence and assume his natural position as a defensive midfielder. The return of left-back Onua Obasi from a three-match suspension meant that the Fury were finally operating with a back four playing in their favoured positions—at least for a bit.
In the 31st minute, Obasi had to be substituted due to an ankle injury. Having no left-sided options, and with Sergio Manesio—the man who filled in for Obasi during his absence—not included in the squad, Popovic had to call on Impact loanee Thomas Meilleur-Giguère to come off the bench and play out of position. After a nervous start, he acquitted himself well.
The aforementioned red card to Mannella came in the 66th minute. There was some controversy over whether the sending off was warranted, but the replay clearly shows that after kicking at the opponent’s legs, Mannella put his hands up to the Red Bulls player’s neck. That’s a big no-no. In his post-match presser, Popovic managed to make his feelings about the referee known without directly criticising him. Pointing down at the table at which he was seated, he said: “Here, I’m never going to speak about the referee. Believe me: today, I would love to speak about the referee. Our culture is not about complaints, and if the coach starts speaking about the referee, I think we have a problem.” But in case anyone was in doubt, he paused and made his point crystal clear:: “But I can tell you this: I would LOVE to speak about the referee today. But I won’t.” Cheeky.
A solidified defence is an important step for a club who have been leaking goals like a sieve this season, but on offence, the Fury look they’ve forgotten how to sustain an attack. Nothing has clicked between the midfield and forwards, best exemplified by Gerardo Bruna’s seven successful passes during his 70 minutes of play on Wednesday. Against FC Cincinnati it was 19, and against North Carolina FC 35. That’s clear regression from a player who is meant to be a central playmaker. Kevin Oliveira, Tony Taylor, Jamar Dixon; none have had a significant impact in the offensive third. There have been flashes from Adonijah Reid and Carl Haworth, as well as goals from Sito Seoane and Oliveira, but the Fury’s two goals on 12 shots on target in 6 matches aren’t going to strike fear in opponents. Something is broken or has failed to materialise, and a fix is needed.
The Fury didn’t give the 8,000 kids who came to the stadium much to get excited about, but they did make some noticeable improvements and earned a result against one of the best clubs in USL.
- On Popovic’s claim that the Fury faced an MLS club on Wednesday, it’s not that much of a stretch. The New York Red Bulls II fielded a squad with 118 MLS appearances, collectively.
- The Fury travel to Harrisburg to visit the recently rebranded Penn City FC. It will be their first clash this season; last year, the clubs traded 1-0 results.
- Fury reunions: old favourites Tommy Heinemann and Romuald Peiser currently ply their trade for the club formerly known as the Harrisburg City Islanders.
- Fury Man of the Match: Maxime Crépeau. He made a number of impressive saves, reinforcing once more Popovic’s switch from Callum Irving. His job to lose, now.