PHOTO: North Carolina FC
By Théo Gauthier
There are nights when the football gods showcase their mischievous side.
In one of their most dominant performances of the season, the Ottawa Fury travelled to Cary, North Carolina, where they were defeated 4-2 by their former NASL rivals.
The Fury were in the ascendancy in every category usually referenced as performance indicators. Possession? Advantage Fury: Shots on frame? Advantage: Fury. And so on…
The former Railhawks were able to absorb the Fury’s pressure for most of the match, responding with counter punches and capitalising on the few chances that were presented to them. Starting with their 3rd-minute opening goal from Conor Tobin, NCFC looked a train leaving the station, with the Fury spending the entire match chasing—gaining ground, gaining ground— only to run out of platform. Even at 3-0, following goals from Daniel Ríos and Marios Lomis, the Fury still looked likely to lift themselves back into the match.
The Fury seemed to do just that right before the break when Kévin Oliveira tallied his second goal of the season, capitalising off some hard work from Adonijah Reid just outside the left side of the 18-yard box. With NCFC parking the bus trying to prevent the dreaded pre-halftime goal, Reid fought tooth and nail with D.J. Taylor and Steven Miller to maintain possession, which allowed Onua Obasi to get into position to intercept a clearing pass. Obasi laid the ball off to an oncoming Oliveira who, unchallenged, dribbled into the box and placed a perfect shot into the lower right part of Alex Tambakis’s goal.
Tambakis would be the one to frustrate the Fury barrage in the second half, finishing the match with six saves. It was one of the Fury’s more prolific offensive displays of the season, with the pressure exerted in the final 3rd finally paying dividends with quality opportunities.
The North Carolina FC train, however, just wouldn’t allow itself to get caught. They would make it 4-1 in the 57th minute when Miller would take advantage of a fortuitous bounce in the Fury box. The ball fell to him as if placed on a tee on the outside of the 18-yard box, and he unleashed a shot past Maxime Crépeau who was helpless on most of the goals scored against him on the night. Apart from the first goal when a blown coverage by Obasi—combined with what seemed like a missed clearance by Mannella—allowed Tobin to bury a corner kick unchallenged, the Fury seemed to be at little risk moments before the ball bulged the back of Crépeau’s net.
The only blame one could heap on the Fury defence on this night was the amount of times clearances were made without full conviction. It seemed that misplaced passes or clearances always ended up on an NCFC boot ready to deliver pain, like a UV ray zeroing in on skin that was missed when applying sunscreen. Some of this may be chalked up to the first match featuring both Colin Falvey and Nana Attakora at the centre of defence, where perhaps a few kinks need to be ironed out. Nothing to raise the alarm.
The Fury, in the end, would be the beneficiaries of a Taylor own-goal, with the final score 4-2. Despite the loss, Fury Head Coach Nikola Popovic was pleased with what he saw from his squad: “We are very proud of our players who fought until the end, who believed it was possible to come back and get the three points,” he said. “The scoreboard doesn’t correspond to what happened in the game. However, sometimes in football, this kind of situation occurs.”
If the Fury continue to put forth performances like the one on Wednesday night in Cary, as well as the 1-0 loss to Charlotte at home, they will end up on the right side of the ledger more times than not. They can only hope that the football gods have gotten their tricks out of their system.
- The Fury now head to Atlanta to take on the MLS club’s USL squad. Back in their earlier encounter in May, the Fury were victorious 2-0 off goals from Steven Dos Santos and Carl Haworth.
- Canadian international Maxime Tissot made his 2018 Fury debut, replacing Reid in the 68th minute. He made an immediate impact, applying the pressure on Taylor that led to the NCFC own-goal.
- It looked like NCFC got away with one on their second goal when they retrieved the ball from Falvey with a vicious slide tackle inside the box that sent the Irish centre back to the floor; no small feat. No call.
- As the Fury toiled in the North Carolinian humidity, AS Blainville secured their passage to the second round of the Voyageurs Cup with a 1-0 victory against the Oakville Blue Devils in southern Ontario. The win means the Fury will travel to Laval on Wednesday night for the first leg of the second round against the Première Ligue de Soccer du Québec upstarts. Keep an eye on my Twitter account for ticketing info.
- The Fury were recognized by the USL for their outstanding month of May, with Popovic earning Manager of the Month and Maxime Crépeau taking the accolades for Player of the Month.
- Happy World Cup, everyone. Savour every minute of it; four years is a long time to wait for the next one to come around.
- Speaking of which, have you heard? Kind of a big deal.
Fury Man of the Match: Kévin Oliveira. Could have gone to a number of Fury players, such as Carl Haworth and Adonijah Reid, but Oliveira takes it on account of the goal.