PHOTO: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography/Ottawa Fury FC
By Théo Gauthier
April 30, 2018
The Ottawa Fury fell 3-0 to FC Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon in what can be deemed one of the most uneven performances in club history, handing former Fury captain Richie Ryan a triumphant return to his old stomping ground.
The Fury were actually right where they wanted to be at halftime, having bossed the terms of engagement and asserted control over the match. The ball was moving swiftly from one side of the pitch to the other, inciting the FC Cincinnati squad to chase the game. It was much of what Fury players and coaches have told us is coming, with one major exception: it wasn’t entertaining. Save for an Eddie Edward penalty shout and a free kick that forced a save from Cincinnati keeper Spencer Richey, there was nothing for the FC Cincinnati defenders to do but watch the Fury pass themselves into trouble. There was no penetration when it came to the final third, no sense that the Fury were a danger to be taken seriously.
Holding FC Cincinnati to a scoreless draw would have been its own achievement, and it’s easy to imagine Fury fans nodding appreciatively to the progress made in the development of this philosophy, accepting that the goals would eventually come, and calling it a good day. But that’s not how things went down. After the first half, the good ship Fury ran aground in the most spectacular way.
Almost as soon as the referee blew the whistle to signal the beginning of the second half, it became clear that FC Cincinnati was done sitting back absorbing the pressure. They spotted something—a vulnerability—and they kept coming. And coming. And coming. Fury keeper Maxime Crépeau was called on to make save after save while facing down attackers one-on-one. FC Cincinnati figured out how to break men through the Fury defence, and the Fury were unable to adjust. It just kept happening, until…
David Beckham. Wayne Rooney. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Kenney Walker. When you concede a wonder-goal that puts you in such company, no amount of blaming the keeper can wash away your pain; Maxime Crépeau was precisely where he would be expected to be in that game situation. You tip your cap, rue the change in fortune, and move on.
If that goal was the knife breaking through the flesh towards a vital organ, it’s the follow-up only a few seconds later that was the fatal twist. The Fury weren’t done recovering, and FC Cincinnati weren’t about to give them any time—not even a minute—to recuperate. Following an errant pass by Fury left back Sergio Manesio, Cincinnati intercepted, marched down the field and scored another. Emmanuel Ledesma’s cross into the box: unchallenged. Corben Bone’s header into the goal: unchallenged. When three Fury defenders have their arms raised in disbelief before the ball even crosses the line, you know there’s been a meltdown.
Instead of sitting on a 2-0 lead away from home, FC Cincinnati persisted. Eight minutes later, the nail in the coffin was struck when Ledesma caught Crépeau off his line once more, looping a ball over the stranded keeper from 30 yards out. Lights out.
It was a half to forget, one that came against one of the league’s top squads. The Fury’s ambitions are such that this should have been a statement match. Instead, it turned into a debacle. It’s a match that seemed so well under the Fury’s control that the contrast from the first half to the second was disorienting.
“We played two games today,” said a clearly upset Fury head coach Nikola Popovic following the match. “It’s incomprehensible to me that we can make the first half perhaps the best of the season, and then in the second half…the team simply didn’t come into the game.” Asked whether the quick turnaround will play into his team’s favour (the Fury play a mid-week game at TD Place on Wednesday), he was unequivocal: “Yes, but not to forget this game. We must remember this, keep it very close to our memory. It is unacceptable. We have to play during 90 minutes; not only 45.”
How the Fury players and coaching staff react to this result will go a long way to determine their fate for the 2018 season. The Fury are not where they want to be. The fans see it. The players feel it. The coaching staff knows it. As Popovic stated after last week’s match: “We are late.”
It’s time to play catch up.
- Richie Ryan connected with this city’s fan base in a way not seen since he left after the 2015 season. The former Fury captain was continuously surrounded by fans after Saturday’s match. He seemed to be as happy as they were to be here. The exact circumstances surrounding his departure have never come to light, but one wonders what could have been had he stayed…
- Not to be lost in the doom and gloom of Saturday’s collapse, quite a few Fury players played well: Eddie Edward was a constant threat on the right flank, Carl Haworth extended his excellent play following his insertion into the first home match, and Maxime Crépeau made as many one-on-one saves as I’ve ever seen from a keeper in one match.
- Speaking of Crépeau, his insertion into the lineup has seen the death of the Fury trying to play out from the back on goal kicks. Long balls all day, every day.
- Turn those frowns upside down, Fury fans. It says here that the club is about to turn the corner on this bad start, with the Fury only seven points out of a playoff spot with a match in hand.
- Fury Man of the Match: Eddie Edward. Won’t be long before Fury fans start calling him Eddie “The Engine” Edwards. Or Triple “E”. Tripoli? The man is tireless, just what you want from an attacking fullback.