PHOTO: Richmond Kickers
By Théo Gauthier
The Ottawa Fury have back-to-back wins for the first time since June, as the men in black and red earned a 2-0 victory on the road against the Richmond Kickers.
Yes, back-to-back victories against the 16th-place Toronto FC II and the 15th-place Richmond Kickers are expected from a team with playoff ambitions, but the deed still has to get done. On a windy night in the Virginian capital, a Carl Haworth-induced own goal followed by an almost-Olimpico from the captain was all the Fury needed to collect the all-important three points.
The Fury’s identity in 2018 is to sit back, let their opponents possess the ball, and hammer them on the counter-attack. When the Fury beat the Kickers by an identical score back at TD Place in August, Head Coach Nikola Popovic responded to a media question about his team’s 31.9% possession in the match this way: “We didn’t want the ball in this game.” The Ottawa club repeated their approach in Saturday night’s match (28.6% possession), with a wrinkle—the high press was in full effect. The new tactic was highly effective, with Ottawa’s forward line of Adonijah Reid, Steevan Dos Santos and Tony Taylor—with the assistance of Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé and Chris Mannella—harrassing the Kickers in an organised and coordinated way that forced a good number of turnovers throughout the match.
The Fury’s first goal was scored in the 10th minute by a former member of the team. Mallan Roberts, who had 22 appearances for the Fury in 2016, had the misfortune of redirecting a Carl Haworth cross right past a helpless Brandon Barnes to put his team in a 1-0 hole from which they wouldn’t recover. The opportunity for the cross came on the end of a nifty Adonijah Reid run, who laid off a pass for Taylor on the right, who in turn slid a pass to Carl Haworth who was quickly sprinting by him with a perfectly-timed overlap run (Haworth started the match at right-back).
Ottawa would double their lead in the 38th minute after Reid—who impressed on the night with a high rate of effort on both sides of the ball—won his team a corner kick. The Fury has scored two goals from Cristian Portilla olimpicos this season; Portilla takes the club’s free kicks from the right side of the goal. From the left, that duty falls to Haworth. Making the longer journey from his right-back position to take this corner, Haworth thought he’d get in on the action. Although he won’t quite be credited with an olimpico—a goal scored directly from a corner without anyone touching it—the end result was the same. Haworth curled an in-swinging kick destined for the top corner, and Kickers keeper Barnes helped it on its way by getting a touch that simply accelerated the ball’s entry into the goal.
The Fury almost made it 3-0 before the half when, on yet another breakout play, Reid played a beautiful ball across the face of goal to an onrushing Steevan Dos Santos. The Cape Verdean had to stretch to get a foot to the ball, deftly putting the ball towards goal. The shot beat Barnes, but hit the crossbar. No stats are kept on this stat, but surely no team in USL has hit the post on more occasions than the Fury in 2018.
In the second half, the Fury had a few more golden opportunities to put the game to rest. In the 51st minute, left-back Eddie Edward took everyone by surprise by cutting in front of the 18-yard box, Ashley Young-style, and unleashed a rocket that missed the lower-right corner of the goal by half a yard. In the 73rd minute, thanks to that high-pressure from the Fury, Dos Santos nicked the ball off a Kickers defender and the break was on once more. With Kévin Oliveira and Reid offering tantalising runs at scrambling Kickers defender in full retreat, Dos Santos laid the ball into the 18-yard box to Reid. Somehow, Reid managed to hit the ball right at Barnes, who deflected the ball out for a corner. A few inches to either side of the Kickers keeper and the score would have been 3-0.
The win lifts the Fury into seventh place in the USL Eastern Conference, tied on points with New York Red Bulls II. The Fury’s next match comes next Saturday when they travel to Louisville to take on the defending USL champions. Including that match, the Fury have four left in their schedule, at Toronto FC II and at home against Bethlehem on the 30th and the Charleston Battery on October 13th.
- With the clean-sheet, Maxime Crépeau broke Romuald Peiser’s single-season record for Fury keepers in all competitions with 15. Next up is the record for clean sheets in the league, which Peiser also holds with 14 in 2015.
- In an upside-down-world moment, Carl Haworth, a forward playing right-back, was defending Mekeil Williams, a centre-back subbed into the match as a central striker.
- A hilarious moment towards the end of the match when Adonijah Reid, stricken with cramp and with no stretcher available, had to be carried off the field in Maxime Crépeau’s arms. Very romantic.
- Carl Haworth and Steevan Dos Santos are now tied with most goals in franchise history (16).
- Fury Man of the Match: Carl Haworth. Tough call in a what was a total team effort, but the captain was once again impressive playing out of his natural position at right-back. Both of the Fury’s goals came off his foot. Other standouts were the aforementioned Reid, along with strong defensive work from Nana Attakora and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère. Chris Manella harried the opposition ball carriers throughout the night, and Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé was equally effective.