PHOTO: Fury GM Julian de Guzman, Credit: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography/Ottawa Fury FC
By Théo Gauthier
Stephen Hart, newly announced as the first head coach and general manager in HFX Wanderers FC history, appears to have outed the Ottawa Fury’s intentions to join the Canadian Premier League in its inaugural season.
In an article by Willy Palov in today’s Halifax Herald, Hart had the following to say:
Getting any kind of official indication that Ottawa Fury FC would join the CPL—currently in their second season playing in the United Soccer League after playing their first three seasons in the North American Soccer League—has been a herculean task. Their only statement on the record regarding the new top tier in Canadian professional soccer, which launches in April 2019, has come from OSEG CEO Mark Goudie to Stuart Mactaggart of Northern Starting XI:
“Ottawa Fury FC is a proud member of the United Soccer League, the world’s largest Division II professional soccer league. Our club has always supported the idea of a Canadian League and more opportunities for Canadian professional soccer players. We commend the work of everyone involved in bringing the CPL to this stage. We have had an open dialogue with the CPL and Canada Soccer and look forward to learning more about the league’s direction and business model.”
You’ll notice the lack of an outright denial.
When rumours started surfacing in the 2016 season that the club was leaving NASL for USL, John Pugh released a statement similar in sentiment to the one about CPL earlier this year:
“Ottawa Fury is an NASL franchise and a league member in good standing,” the Sept. 1 statement said. “Over the last three seasons, Fury has forged strong ties with Ottawa/Gatineau soccer associations and the community at large and those efforts, combined with Fury’s high calibre of play, have established a growing fan base for professional soccer in our region. Our long-term focus is on gaining even greater fan support, this season and in future seasons.”
The club announced that fall that they were indeed joining the American 2nd division circuit.
The Fury changed their player acquisition philosophy this winter under new General Manager Julian de Guzman, signing 17 Canadians to their roster. Previously, the Fury’s Canadian contingent had topped out in the 2016 season at 12, but most of those players were further down the depth chart. On Wednesday, for example, the Fury starting eleven included eight Canadians. With the CPL having stated that there will be roster quotas requiring clubs to have a minimum number of Canadians, the Fury’s stockpiling was seen by some as a subtle indication that the club intended to jump to CPL at some point.
When asked for comment, the Fury issued the following statement:
“As Canada’s most Canadian professional soccer club, with 17 Canadian players on our roster, we are thrilled with what the CPL will bring to Canada’s sports landscape, and are appreciative of the recognition our work is getting. We look forward to the continued growth of our sport in Canada and seeing our nation established as a global soccer leader. However, at this time, our focus remains on the objectives we have set for ourselves in the very competitive USL.”
Ottawa Sports Network will continue to update this story as it develops.