“But I thought the Fury and the Whitecaps played in different leagues” a casual Ottawa sports fan might say.
“Well spotted!” I’d exclaim. Then I’d go on to explain, at length, the competition known at the Amway Canadian Championship.
The Amway Canadian Championship, or as it’s more affectionately known, the Voyageurs Cup, is the closest thing Canada has to a domestic soccer league. It is separate from the NASL, the league Ottawa normally competes in. Fury FC games in the Voyageurs Cup don’t have any affect on their position in the NASL standings. In the Voyageurs Cup, Canada’s five professional teams (Ottawa, FC Edmonton, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Montreal Impact, and Toronto FC) compete for the chance to represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League, a competition featuring the top teams from across North and Central America.
Fury FC and FC Edmonton kicked off the competition last Wednesday in the Albertan capital, where Ottawa embarrassed Edmonton 3-0. Here are the highlights:
With a first half goal from Fury defender Timbó, and second half goals from forwards Carl Haworth and Idan Vered, the game was one of the most dominant away games in club history, and certainly the most important performance in head coach Paul Dalglish’s short tenure so far.
“It takes time to change a team’s mentality as the club had more of a defensive approach last year” Dalglish said after the game. “We are still working on changing that into a more offensive-minded team and I hope that tonight’s performance will help do that. We probably won’t get many points for style tonight, but our performance was effective and at the end of the day that’s what matters.”
The game was the first leg in the home-and-away series, with the second half of the series being played this Wednesday at TD Place. With the win, Ottawa is halfway to a showdown with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, last years Voyageurs Cup champions. If the Fury can seal the deal this Wednesday, they’ll host the Whitecaps at TD Place on June 1.
The date with Vancouver is by no means locked up. Ottawa has had a lot of trouble with FC Edmonton in Voyageurs Cup competition in the last two years. The win on May 11th was actually Ottawa’s first ever win in the Amway Canadian Championship. Fans will remember Ottawa letting in 3 late goals against FC Edmonton in the first leg game last year, after being up 1-0 for the majority. And Ottawa’s 2016 NASL season got off to a slow start, having earned just a single point in their first four games.
Carl Haworth was the Man of the Match in Edmonton and spoke after the game: “We didn’t start the season too well. With four away games, the game here [a 2-0 loss to Edmonton on April 24th] was a turning point. We got back home… and just reorganized, changed our tactics a little bit, and it’s been paying off as of late.”
In their last two games at TD Place, Ottawa has earned four of six possible points, and with the win in Edmonton, Ottawa seems to be rounding into form at an opportune time. On top of that, there is a good chance the Fury will have playmakers Julian de Guzman and Gerardo Bruno at their disposal, both of whom have been on the injured list as of late.
With a strong performance in Ottawa this Wednesday (or even just a competent one) Ottawa will see its first action against MLS competition, which, as Dalglish said following last week’s match, is the main goal here. “The prize [of this home-and-away series] is to have an MLS team visit TD Place. No MLS team has ever visited TD Place so we want to make that happen.”
Fury FC Player To Watch: Onua Obasi
Obasi was a late addition to the Fury, having helped the Baltimore Blast win the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League) title before joining Ottawa in late-April. The defender instantly improved what started the season as a weak left side. Edmonton will be looking to score quickly and often if they have any chance of coming back, so Ottawa’s defence will have to be on-point all night.
FC Edmonton Player to Watch: Daryl Fordyce
With 21 goals in 66 games for the Eddies, Fordyce is Edmonton’s all-time leading scorer, and their leading scorer against Ottawa. Though it’s not actually a guarantee that he’ll start this game. Edmonton has a busier schedule right now than Ottawa, and after already going down 3-0 in this series, they may decide to rest some starters and save them to focus on NASL league play. If he does start however, or sees any playing time, Edmonton’s offence will flow through Fordyce.
Kickoff is Wednesday, May 18th at 7:30. Tickets are available online, by phone at 613-232-6767 x1, or in person at the TD Place Box Office.