Ottawa Fury FC is halfway through their first season in the USL, and head into the second half in a bit of a slump. Needing points to climb the standings, Fury FC have been winless in their last three games, losing their last two (most recently a 1–0 loss to Toronto FC II). The game was one Ottawa needed to win, and as the stronger side, they should have.
Coach Paul Dalglish said after the game, “It’s a hard one to accept when there are so many positives to take out from this game. Last week we were deservedly beaten by Louisville, but this week we worked on a lot of things at training which the guys executed very well tonight. I really find it hard to accept that we’ve lost this game after one of our best performances of the season.”
With most of the play in Toronto’s end, and 13 shots at the net, Ottawa was easily the more dangerous team – but could not finish any chances, including one shot where a miscommunication in the 18-yard box led to both Ryan Williams and Andrae Campbell kicking the ball at the same time. The ball then rolled harmlessly into TFC II goalkeeper Mark Pais’ hands.
The team now has a chance to regroup with a friendly against their MLS affiliate, Montreal Impact, at TD Place on Wednesday July 12, before taking on their USL rivals the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday July 15, also at TD Place. A major positive from the season so far has been the team’s health. Some changes to player training, including the time that practises are held, has resulted in far fewer injuries so far than in years past.
“We’ve changed the start of training to try and get players more sleep” Dalglish says. “Because we share the facility with the Redblacks, we have to train before them or after them. In the past we’ve been training before them in the morning, and maybe players weren’t getting enough sleep, maybe they were accumulating fatigue. This is probably the healthiest we’ve been since I’ve been here. It’s as full a selection as you could wish for at this moment in time to choose from.”
Ottawa has had stretches with some stellar offence and dominant defence, but rarely at the same time. Getting one without sacrificing the other on a consistent basis is Dalglish’s main challenge going forward. He believes the team is built to peak when it’s most important, come playoff time.
“We want to score more goals and we want to concede less. I think there’s a lot of signs that we’re about to do that. We’ve never really had both happening at the same time. At the start of the season we were a fantastic defensive unit, very difficult to score against… but we weren’t scoring enough goals. Then we went through a spell where we were scoring goal after goal after goal, but we weren’t keeping clean sheets. We’ve got to try to match the two. We know we can defend well and we know we can attack well, but we’ve got to put it together. At the same time.”
“For me, being in North America, is it’s different than being in Europe. You don’t need to be the best team during the season. You only need to be the best team once playoff times comes, and as long as you get enough points, you get into the playoffs. If we’re firing on all cylinders come playoff time, that’s the position we want to be in. We don’t want to peak too soon. We have a long-term training plan to peak come playoff time. We should see our benefits come late in the season.”
With the team currently tied for 10th in the USL Eastern Conference, they need to make sure they put together some wins to climb the standings and ensure they actually make the playoffs. Dalglish likes the team he’s built, and it will need to be good enough, because there likely won’t be any new recruits anytime soon.
“The budget is spent for this season. If somebody was to come in, somebody would have to go. I’m really happy with the squad we’ve got at this moment in time. We feel we’ve got good players when we’re at full strength. Never say never, you never know what name is going to come up on your phone making inquiries about your players, but we’re not actively looking to make too many changes in this window. But like I said, never say never.”
I’m really happy with the squad we’ve got at this moment in time. We feel we’ve got good players when we’re at full strength. –Paul Dalglish
With plenty of room to improve, and plenty of soccer left to play in the season, lots can happen. Fury FC has had some success and has shown that, when they’re on, they can play as well as any team in the league. Dalglish seems fully aware of the challenge ahead, and wants fans to know the work is nowhere near done.
“We aren’t the finished article as a team, and we’re going to keep working hard to improve. We don’t always play wonderfully, but the one thing I will say is I think supporters, when they pay money to watch you play, the one thing they expect is that their team fights, and they try, and they earn the trust of supporters by working as hard as they can in every game. For me, I think the guys have proven that even when we don’t play well, we can still hang in there, and we can challenge right until the 90th minute.”
Ottawa Fury FC kick off their friendly against Montreal Impact at TD Place this Wednesday, July 12 at 7pm, and resume USL action against the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday, July 15 at 2pm. Tickets are available online and at the TD Place Box Office.