PHOTO: Toronto FC II
By Théo Gauthier
On Thursday night in Toronto, the Ottawa Fury took a 2-0 lead into halftime with goals from Tony Taylor and Cristian Portilla which, in any other Fury match of 2018, would have been game over.
The Fury secured their halftime lead by playing the same way they have all summer: tight defence, solid goalkeeping, conceding possession and taking shots at the opposition on the break. Head Coach Nikola Popovic’s hand was forced into a 3-5-2 formation (with Haworth acting as an attacking wing-back once more) due to a sudden slew of injuries to some of his regular starters. Left-back Onua Obasi, right-back Eddie Edward, midfielder Jamar Dixon were all out with injuries, on top of Maxime Crépeau being called into international duty with Canada. The long list of absentees meant a Fury debut for keeper David Monsalve and a rare start for Azake Luboyera on the wing.
There are no easy outs in the USL’s Eastern Conference this season, but with only three wins, TFC II have been reliably defeated by almost everyone in 2018. However, with a FIFA international break and MLS being on board for this one, several regulars from the parent club got a start for the USL outfit: Ashtone Morgan, Nick Hagglund, Jason Hernandez, Ryan Telfer and Jordan Hamilton have all seen significant minutes with TFC and were keen to impress with the MLS club’s entire brass on hand at Lamport Stadium to monitor their performance.
Despite the TFC reinforcements, Ottawa was in full control of the match heading into halftime. Then all hell broke loose, giving supporters of both clubs a thrilling half of football.
Nana Attakora had to be substituted at the half due to a knee injury, but Popovic had David Edgar on whom they could call to take his place at the centre of defence. It didn’t matter. TFC II burst out of the gates in the second half, pinning the Fury deep in their own end. As they worked the ball into dangerous areas, a cross was deflected back to the top of the 18-yard box by Cristian Portilla to the feet of fellow Spaniard Jon Bakero. Portilla, perhaps a little slow to react in closing down the shooter, watched helplessly as the ball was beautifully struck past Monsalve into the top right corner of the Fury goal.
Before the Fury players could collect their thoughts, TFC II was on them again within seconds to pull even. This time, Bakero would provide the killer pass that split the Fury defence to find Japanese forward Tsubasa Endoh, who slid the ball under Monsalve to make the score 2-2.
The end to end action that ensued may have given some Fury supporters whiplash as the two clubs went at each other with abandon. In the 53rd minute, Jordan Hamilton beat Monsalve but put his header off the far post to keep the score even. Ten minutes later, the Fury would create a 4-on-2 break from which they would fail to capitalise. Heart rates were reaching the danger zone.
The Fury regained the lead in the 69th minute with Thomas Meilleur-Giguère’s first goal as a member of the Fury when Kévin Oliveira whipped in a ball on a free kick from the left side that skimmed Meilleur-Giguère’s spiked hair, found the chest of TFC II defender Kyle Bjornethun and beat keeper Borja Angoitia. The way the match was going, the Fury couldn’t afford any more mistakes. To their chagrin, a moment of madness from Monsalve was an opening TFC II could not resist.
Monsalve had done the hard part in saving a shot at point blank from Ryan Telfer, parrying to the left of the Fury goal towards Jordan Hamilton, who had a bit of beat on it ahead of David Edgar. Nevertheless, one would expect Edgar to shepherd the ball out of danger without too much trouble. Monsalve had other thoughts, sprinting ahead of Edgar and diving through the back of Hamilton to kick the ball into touch. Unfortunately for the native of North York, going to ground and tackling from behind is a big no-no and referee David Barrie correctly pointed to the spot. On the ensuing penalty kick, Jordan Hamilton blasted the ball into the top centre of the goal to make it 3-3.
At this point, the six-goal output was already the highest goal total in the Fury’s season, matching a 4-2 loss to North Carolina FC earlier this season. With the Fury needing three points to keep any sensible playoff hopes alive, could they find the fourth goal?
Enter King Nijah.
Adonijah Reid, the nineteen-year-old FC Dallas loanee from Brampton, had subbed into the match in the 63rd minute, replacing Luboyera. Despite a strong first half this season, Reid had cooled off since a hat-trick at New York Red Bulls II back in June. On this night, he would get his crown back.
Sprinting forward from his right wing-back position, Fury captain Carl Haworth latched onto a throw-in and got himself into position for a cross. On the opposite side of the field, Reid was matching Haworth’s run, but at the far post beyond TFC II’s defenders. Like a quarterback spotting a wide-open receiver, Haworth launched an inch-perfect cross right onto Reid’s head, who directed the ball past Angoitia to seal the win for the Fury.
The goal may have been the end of the scoring for the night, but it wasn’t the end of the fireworks. As TFC II pressed for an equaliser in stoppage time Kévin Oliveira seemed to get caught up in the spirit of the night’s goal-fest, forgetting to kill the game as he kept taking free kicks quickly with time winding down. What happened next wasn’t caught by the TV cameras, but match commentators Gareth Wheeler and Terry Dunfield described a livid Popovic and Oliveira getting into a shouting match, with the Fury Head Coach having to be restrained by an assistant at the final whistle to keep him away from the Cape Verdean. Popovic and Oliveira have a long-standing relationship, so it’s doubtful the animosity lasts beyond those fiery minutes.
Ultimately, it was “Mission Accomplished” for the Ottawa Fury; three much-needed points in the bag coming in perhaps the most exciting half of regular season football in Fury history. The Fury now has a rare eight-day break before their next match against the 14th-place Kickers in Richmond next Saturday.
- Canadian International Simeon Jackson is currently on trial with the Fury and played in the second half of the Fury’s 1-0 loss to the Impact in Friday Night’s Capital City Cup. The 31-year-old winger has six goals in 49 caps for Canada, with notable career stints in Blackburn and Norwich.
- The Fury drew an impressive crowd of 6,321 for Friday night’s friendly against the Impact. Last year’s identical fixture also ended 0-1 to the visitors. There were a lot of new faces in the crowd, many of them sporting Impact jerseys. A totally-unscientific-but-probably-accurate poll of a few fans confirmed many of them were Impact fans from Gatineau. Now to get them to come to Fury matches…
- Only one Fury match had more goals: a 5-3 win against Richmond in 2017.
- Where art thou, Michael Petrasso? Since being sent on loan from the Impact to the Fury last week, the former Queen’s Park Rangers man has not been part of the Fury’s game-day squad over three matches.
- Clément Bayiha is travelling a strange, strange road: signed by the Fury earlier this summer, then immediately loaned back to the Impact, coming to the Fury for a few matches in August, showing up on the Fury’s roster for last night’s friendly, but getting the start and scoring for the blue-and-black. Identity crisis!
- Bacary Sagna played at TD Place last night. Bacary Sagna played at TD Place last night.
Fury Man of the Match: Carl Haworth. The captain has been called upon to expand his role as a forward, filling in as an attack-minded wing-back over the past couple of seasons. Haworth put in another good shift on Thursday night, patrolling that right flank with a seemingly endless reservoir of energy and getting the assist on the winning goal.