Nashville has historically been the home of heartfelt laments, so the Ottawa Fury won’t have had to look hard for an appropriate soundtrack for their journey home after a 2-0 loss on Friday night.
Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” might be a good selection, seeing as this mini road trip has failed to deliver the bounty of points the Fury set out to collect after the final game of their homestand. Against Atlanta United II on Tuesday, in the strange continuation of a match which began two months ago, neither team managed to pry the extra two points on offer. Nashville SC, however, had little difficulty in dispatching what looked like a tired Fury squad in the first half.
From the earliest stages of the match, it became apparent that the primary battle on the field would come on the far flank between Nashville’s Taylor Washington and the Fury’s Eddie Edward. The wingbacks took turns beating each other and getting the ball deep into enemy territory. Washington certainly won the first half, as the men in gold dominated possession and the Edward spent most of his time mindful of the lively 23-year-old American.
Though the play in the first half was mostly a midfield battle of attrition, Nashville’s breakthrough would come in the 31st minute. South African midfielder Lebo Moloto left Fury centre-back Nana Attakora holding his boots with a nice shimmy and rolled a perfect pass back to the penalty spot where Matt Lagrazza was completing a long support run. Lagrassa was unmarked as he slotted the ball past the helpless Maxime Crépeau.
If the Fury looked a step slow in the first half, whatever was said in the halftime team talk seemed to wipe the cobwebs from their eyes. Sadly for the Fury, one of their former teammates would play a key role in extending Nashville’s lead before they could do any damage. Tucker Hume, who spent the 2017 season as part of Paul Daglish’s Fury, drew a penalty when he took to the air to chase a Nashville cross from a free-kick. Hume, who has recently drawn the ire of FC Cincinnati’s fan base for his reputation as a bit of a flopper, felt a nudge from Steevan Dos Santos, threw his arms into the air and was rewarded with the referee pointing to the spot. Up stepped Brandon Allen to put away the penalty.
Fury Head Coach Nikola Popovic has spoken consistently since his arrival in Ottawa about his desire to see his team fight to the end. That spirit was on display immediately following Nashville’s second goal, as the return from injury of Fury captain Carl Haworth was made complete when the fourth official flashed a green “8” on the electronic substitutes board. It was a double substitution, with Popovic handing new signing Daniel Kinumbe his first professional appearance. Dos Santos and Daniel Haber would make way.
The substitutions immediately injected a spark into the Fury’s offensive play. Haworth was decidedly buzzing, haranguing Nashville’s back line and making a nuisance of himself. The tone of the match also shifted with Kinumbe’s blazing pace, as the 19-year-old Canadian had a go at Nashville’s defence and was mostly successful.
For the final 30 minutes of the match, the Fury did everything but score, with Haworth and Kinumber even exchanging shots off the bar. Nashville was on the ropes, but the Fury could not find a way back into the match, despite clawing their share of the possession back to an even 50/50 by the final whistle.
All in all, the road trip will go down as a disappointment for Fury supporters. The Fury can ill-afford to continue dropping points against their playoff rivals like Nashville SC, and much less fail to snatch points from bottom-dwellers such as Atlanta United II.
In light of these results, the Fury’s upcoming match on Wednesday night at home against the Richmond Kickers represents an opportunity to take three points from another struggling Eastern Conference team. The Fury will be hoping they can replicate their second-half showing against Nashville from the outset, rather than finding themselves two goals down before taking the initiative.
- Nashville’s commentary team started brightly, but as the match wore on devolved into the homerism so commonly heard on USL broadcasts. One particularly egregious insult came when the play-by-play announcer was listing off facts about Ottawa and said: “Did you know that 37% of people in Ottawa can speak both English and French?” “I doubt that,” came the reply from the colour commentator. The war on facts continues unabated, folks. Fake news, indeed.
- Maxime Crépeau and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, two current Ottawa residents who speak both English and French, had another solid game. Crépeau wasn’t at fault on either of Nashville’s goals, showed again that balls in the air inside the Fury’s 18-yard box are almost sure to land cradled in his arms. TMG, for his part, continues to draw attention from the Montreal media, who seem to believe he’s a lock to be part of the Impact’s squad in 2019.
- Fury Man of the Match: Carl Haworth. Coming off the bench, the Fury captain proved to be a handful for Nashville’s defenders, forcing a beautiful outstretched save from Matt Pickens, drilling a ball off the crossbar and unsettling his markers with energetic runs off the ball.