PHOTO: M. Williams / Penn FC
By Théo Gauthier
On Monday night, the Ottawa Fury earned their first win of the season—on the road no less—as they defeated Penn FC 1-0 with a late goal by Colin Falvey.
There are markers over the course of a soccer season that can be pointed to as significant signposts. Falvey’s goal felt like just that type of omen. When the goal came, the Fury were in the midst of a 271-minute goal drought, and despite some visible improvements over the last few matches—especially on the defensive side—the ball wasn’t crossing their opponent’s goal line.
The way Falvey and his teammates reacted to the goal added to that sense of importance. Falvey, running full-speed towards the Fury bench with his arms outstretched, his face locked in a primal scream as if he were Perseus having slain Medusa, the great hero releasing his pent-up rage having finally vanquished his foe. His teammates trailed behind him like the tail of a comet hurtling through space. It was cathartic. It was a moment.
The goal was well-deserved, based on the run of play throughout the match. Despite giving up the majority of the possession (59%-41%), the Fury bossed the encounter from beginning to end. They always looked on the front foot and had many opportunities to score. If anything, you could fault Steven Dos Santos and Carl Haworth for failing to be clinical about the chances they were given. That will come if the Fury continue on their current arc of improvement; their respective track records tell us as much.
Fury fans watching at home were spared having to cheer against their former heroes, since Tommy Heinemann, Mauro Eustaquio and Romuald Peiser were given the night off on account of Penn FC having played a Friday night match only three days prior (Penn FC have an insane schedule, due to a ground-sharing agreement with the local baseball team). Kyle Venter was the only former Fury player to make an appearance for Penn FC, coming on for 14 minutes.
It’s possible to downplay the Fury’s success in this match because they were facing a depleted squad, but even if you take that into account, the match was a success. It showed head coach Nicola Popovic’s ability to adapt. The match was played on one of the smallest surfaces permitted by FIFA, a match condition not suited to the Fury’s preferred style of play. Popovic was clearly trying to catch Penn FC on the counter, and it worked. There were countless breakouts, and the threat presented in the final 3rd was better than anything witnessed so far in the season.
First came the keeper. Then came the defence. The midfield is still a work in progress, but vast improvements were made by the forwards. Fury observers will recall that this is the template that was used in 2015 after a mediocre start to the season, a season that saw the Fury go all the way to the Final. If Fury keeper Maxime Crépeau starts angling in on Romuald Peiser’s club record for scoreless minutes (648), it will be a good indicator that something special is taking shape. But that’s many minutes in the future.
The Fury is whipping itself into shape. They’re beginning to look like the team that was promised. If they turn this thing around proper, no one will hold the slow start against them.
- Jimmy-Shammar Sanon, the young Haitian international, was lights out on the right wing when he was inserted into the match in the 66th minute. His run and shot to the Penn FC keeper’s face led to the Falvey goal on the ensuing corner.
- Nice to see Tiago Calvano get a yellow card against the Fury. Some things never change.
- You think Julian de Guzman is trying to work his charms on Vancouver Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi to keep Doneil Henry longer than the 5-6 weeks to which they initially agreed?
- Think about that for a second: two Canadian soccer legends, in charge of their respective Canadian clubs, haggling over a former EPL Canadian international. What a time to be alive.
- The Fury’s next match is at home against expansion USL side Atlanta United II. They have six points from seven matches.
- Furious Man of the Match: Colin Falvey. Who else? I mean, I just compared him to Perseus.