By Théo Gauthier
April 15, 2018
The Fury lost its third consecutive match to open its 2018 USL season on Saturday night, falling 1-0 to a well-organised and workmanlike Pittsburgh Riverhounds squad.
Although the result was better in terms of goals conceded than their previous two efforts—a 4-1 loss in Charlotte and a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies—the same problems arose in Pittsburgh. No one on the Fury squad currently seems comfortable with the ball. Despite adopting a philosophy of ball control and possession, the Fury have only shared that outlook with their words off the pitch. On it, they are mostly flailing around, hacking at the ball as if it’s carrying the bubonic plague. Their situational awareness is lacking, especially in spontaneous situations. If you were to look at this team in a vacuum, absent of the promises made off the field, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a Sam Allardyce team committed to the long ball, rather than a squad being billed as students of the Pep Guardiola school of football.
A glimmer of hope was offered in how well-organised the Fury were in defence, but that’s not how this team was billed. Beautiful, attacking football full of possession is what fans were promised, and that’s what they’ll expect. And who could blame them? Being promised a similar style of play by the previous manager was met with a healthy dose of scepticism since it was coming from a man who was literally brought up in the lap of English football royalty. But with head coach Nikola Popovic, there is belief that a man who learned his craft in continental Europe, acquiring the highest certification UEFA has to offer, can deliver on his promises.
Hard to see the progress tonight, but still too early to panic. I just hope #FuryFC aren’t unflappably committed to a style that is on the luxurious side.
— Jon Fury (@FuryInOttawa) April 15, 2018
That tweet, though. Playing a style anchored in holding the ball, in quality passing, in good decision-making; these are features found in some of the most budget-heavy clubs in the world. Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, Pep at Barça, Luis Aragones with Spain are all examples of this style of play, but have you ever seen a 2nd division USL side pull it off? Can you conceive it? Is it too luxurious for Ottawa Fury FC?
It’s not impossible. We know the coaching staff is committed to it, but the players have to buy-in, full-stop. As of this moment, there aren’t many signs that what they’re being taught on the training pitch is translating onto the field of play. The Fury got Beaver Fever in the offseason and acquired what seemed like every Canadian available. Fans of the national team and the Fury want to believe that these players can embrace such a high level of football sophistication, but with every match being dropped their overall hopes for success fall further behind those of their rivals.
The first chapter in the Fury’s 2018 season has come to a close. With their home opener on Saturday the fans, players and coaching staff will hope to turn the corner on its forgettable start. On home soil against one of the strongest teams in the league, can the Fury start putting philosophy into practice?
- Maxime Crépeau got the start in goal against the Riverhounds over Callum Irving. The change was one of the most identifiable improvements for the Fury, but it begs the question: does the Fury sacrifice the development of one of its products over helping the advancement of the Impact’s keeper of the future?
- Hometown hero Eddie Edward made his first start of the season following his recovery from a pre-season injury. Here again, the Fury got a boost in performance in comparison to his rival for first-team minutes Kyle Porter.
- The Fury have to calm down when they have the ball. Booting the ball downfield at every opportunity is not how this team is set up to succeed. Take a breath.
- Nothing is working in the offensive third for the Fury. Four shots on target in three matches isn’t going to cut it.
- If Cristian Portilla can challenge keepers from distance as he did late in the match against Pittsburgh, then fire away!
- Assistant coach Victor Oppong was sent off for time-wasting in the 84th minute, showing that passion is not lacking within this Fury staff.
- The Fury was much better organised in defence and looked like a cohesive unit for the first time this season.
- Fury Man of the Match: Maxime Crépeau