This Sunday is Fan Appreciation Day at TD Place, as Ottawa Fury FC ends their 2017 USL home schedule with their game against FC Cincinnati. They’ll end the season in Pittsburgh against the Riverhounds on October 14. While the year hasn’t gone the way captain Lance Rozeboom and the boys planned, the fans have given the team plenty to appreciate. The team has underperformed most of the year, sits 13th in the Eastern Conference, and for the second straight season, Ottawa won’t see postseason soccer. Despite this, the Fury haven’t seen a drop in average attendance, and will actually celebrate a new attendance record on Sunday, breaking the 100,000 mark for the season.
Says Fury FC President John Pugh: “rain or shine, freezing cold or scorching heat our fans always get behind us and did they ever make a difference this season. From the comeback win against Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship semis to the number of late winners and equalizers we had at home, we can’t say enough about the support we get at TD Place.”
The season may be lost, but there are still jobs and pride to play for. Since taking over from Paul Dalglish in August, interim head coach Julian de Guzman has yet to record his first win, so the team will be working hard to rectify that. De Guzman has admitted he hasn’t tried implementing any major changes in the team’s style since taking over, hoping to make the playoffs with the setup and style already in place. Now that the team has been eliminated from playoff contention, de Guzman may try changing things up in a more significant way for the final two games, since he is also being evaluated.
There is a good chance de Guzman will be given a shot at the head coach position next season, so he’ll be looking at what players he might want to bring back next season. However, de Guzman’s return is not guaranteed. With two subpar seasons in a row, the team may look to instead bring in a coach with a proven track record to right the Fury ship. Either way, with new contracts to play for (in Ottawa or elsewhere), players will be looking to prove their worth to anyone watching.
The Opposition: FC Cincinnati
With fan attendance averaging over 21,000 per game, FC Cincinnati is without a doubt the USL’s marquee club. They currently sit 6th in the Eastern Conference and are assured a playoff spot. Ottawa can play a bit of a spoiler role if they can break Cincinnati’s six-game unbeaten streak. A win for Ottawa would deal a serious blow to Cincinnati’s chances of hosting a playoff game. They’re coming off a 1-0 win against Charlotte on September 29th, thanks to a massive save on a last-minute penalty kick by 2016 USL Goalkeeper of the Year Mitch Hildebrandt.
Player to watch: Carl Haworth
Last year’s leading scorer has yet to find the back of the net this season. He’s come painfully close on several occasions, but after coming back from an injury, Haworth just hasn’t quite found the touch he had last year. It just doesn’t feel right that he would go a year without a goal. Putting one home at TD Place on Sunday would be a massive boost to his confidence, and would give fans reason to hope for a better 2018, should Haworth return.
Tickets for Sunday’s Fan Appreciation match are available online and at the TD Place box office. Kickoff is at 2pm.