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Photo courtesy of USLsoccer.com

New Fury FC coach Popovic excited about Ottawa club’s potential

By Josh Lemoine on January 13, 2018

It’s been a busy week for Ottawa Fury FC. They’ve announced the signings of Canadian internationals Nana Attakora and Maxim Tissot (a Gatineau native who previously played for Ottawa in 2016), the re-signing of key midfielder Gerardo Bruna, and we found out Ottawa’s quest for the 2018 Canadian Championship will start in late June. In a new feature to the Voyageurs Cup, League1 Ontario champions Oakville Red Devils will face PLSQ (Quebec) champions AS Blainville for the chance to face Ottawa in a home-and-home series June 20th and 27th.

A bigger announcement, however, came in late December, when Fury FC finally settled their coaching situation. Julian de Guzman, who took over as interim head coach and GM when Paul Dalglish left the club in mid-August 2017, was appointed GM full-time. De Guzman then appointed Nikola Popovic as the club’s head coach for 2018.

Popovic, who in 2017 coached the Swope Park Rangers to the USL Cup Final, sees a great opportunity here in Ottawa.

“It’s a club full of potential. Believe me, I’ve had the pleasure of working with one of the best clubs in the States, Sporting Kansas City, and in Europe I was able to experience Benfica, and I can tell you that this club has very good infrastructure with fantastic people working there, and it’s a fantastic city. I’m very excited, I think this club has a great future ahead of it.”

Nikola Popovic. Photo courtesy of MLSsoccer.com

Popovic, a dual citizen of Serbia and Portugal (who briefly played lower division pro soccer in Portugal as a defensive midfielder), has made coaching stops in Portugal, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Spain, United Arab Emirates and Qatar before coaching Swope Park in Kansas. He speaks English, Serbian, Portuguese and Spanish. With French speakers making up an important part of Ottawa’s fanbase, he is looking to hire a tutor to work on his French as well.

“I understand French, but I have to practice,” he chuckles.

In 2016, he was Swope’s assistant coach under former Ottawa head coach Marc Dos Santos. Dos Santos, who in 2017 coached the NASL Soccer Bowl winning San Francisco Deltas, left an impression on Popovic.

“For me, Marc is one of the best coaches in North America, I don’t have any doubt about it. It’s always a pleasure working with a coach of that quality. He introduced me to soccer in North America.”

Ottawa Fury FC General Manager Julian de Guzman on the right. Photo: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography.

For Popovic, one of Ottawa’s selling points was newly appointed GM de Guzman. As a player, JDG built a resume few Canadians can match. Popovic followed de Guzman as a player during his time in Spain, and is excited to work with a GM who shares a similar vision of how the game should be played.

“As a player, de Guzman was fantastic. We followed him a lot in Portugal because he was playing with [Deportivo] La Coruña during a fantastic year, so right away I had a good impression of him as a player. But now, knowing him personally, he’s an even better person.”

It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with a man who understands football at such a high level.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with a man who understands football at such a high level. I think we are going to connect very well. It’s very important how we are going to choose the players, and understand very well the players who will fit the culture, and who will be able to perform the way that I want to play in this league.”

Ottawa Fury FC currently have 13 players under contract (including 7 Canadians), with more signings expected in the coming days and weeks.

Players under contract for 2018:

GK – Callum Irving 🇨🇦
D – Nana Attakora 🇨🇦
D – Eddie Edward 🇨🇦
D – Onua Obasi
M – Gerardo Bruna
M – Jamar Dixon 🇨🇦
M – Sergio Manesio
M – Jimmy-Shammar Sanon 🇨🇦
M – Maxim Tissot 🇨🇦
F – Steevan Dos Santos
F – Carl Haworth 🇨🇦
F – Azake Luboyera
F – Sito Seoane

Training camp for Ottawa Fury FC begins January 29, 2018.