Ottawa Fury FC just finished its second full regular season, winning the North American Soccer League Fall Championship, and are now the second seed in the NASL playoffs. They’ll host their semi-final game against Minnesota United FC at TD Place on November 8th. It is, without a doubt, the most important soccer game in Ottawa’s history.
Earlier this week I spoke with Fury FC captain Richie Ryan about the playoffs, about adjusting to life in Ottawa, and who has the best hair on the team.
Apt613: Hi Richie, I want to talk about the playoffs and this crazy run that Fury FC has been on over the last few months, but first I want to ask you about your last few years since you arrived in Ottawa. Had you ever been to Canada before joining Fury FC?
Richie Ryan: No, I didn’t know anything about it to be honest. It was just an opportunity that came up for us that we couldn’t turn down.
You came to Ottawa with your wife, right? Did you or your wife have any expectations about what life would be like in Ottawa, or what playing soccer in Ottawa would be like?
Yes, we had some friends back home in Ireland and Scotland that had been to Canada and actually been to Ottawa a few times on holiday, and we’d heard that it was a nice city and a lovely place to be, sort of a laid back kind of place. On that side of things we were excited. On the football side of things it was sort of a blank page. With Ottawa just starting, I didn’t really look into it too much to be honest, I just fancied a new challenge in my career, and so far it’s paid off.
Is there anything that surprised you?
Yeah, it’s really spread out! The town centre is really quite small for being a capital city, then you look at the surrounding areas and think “wow, it’s massive.” It takes quite a while to get around. That’s probably the only thing that came as a bit of a surprise to me.
Now that you know the city a bit better, do you have any favourite hangouts?
I’ve got a one-year-old girl, so I don’t really get much of a chance to do any “hanging out” at the moment [laughs]. We live in the Westboro area, so especially during the summer months it’s a lovely area, there’s plenty of coffee shops, bars and restaurants or to just go for walks to in the evenings. We’re close to the water as well, so there’s plenty to keep the little one company.
Before Fury FC’s first ever game, you were voted captain by the other players. What did that mean to you, and what qualities do you try to bring to that role as Captain.
It meant a lot to me because it was my teammates that wanted me to be Captain, so to be nominated by the people you play with and train with everyday, that’s what made me feel happy about it. Obviously to represent a club starting out from scratch, it’s a big achievement for me in my career. As a Captain I’m pretty laid back. I’m not one of them that goes screaming and shouting around the change room before games to rally the troops. I’d like to think I try to lead by example, and be more of a calming influence rather than somebody that goes around screaming and shouting. I think more so for the younger players as well, I’d like to think I can try and help them develop, and give them advice on how they can make a successful career for themselves.
As one of the original Fury players, in just two years you’ve seen this fan base grow from a few thousand fans a game to averaging over 6000 fans a game for the fall season. What does that feel like as a player to be involved in something like that?
I think that was one of the main reasons why I came here, to be involved in a new project. That was the project that Marc Dos Santos had in front of him, to try and make the sport grow within the city with its first professional team. I think over the first two seasons, like you said, we’ve gone from 2500-3000 fans last season, to having consistently in the Fall Season 6000 and more. It’s important for us as a team to win games, because that’s what gets fans out. We have to be successful on the pitch to make sure the fan base keeps growing from year to year.
Speaking of winning, Fury FC have played themselves into the NASL playoffs, and you play Minnesota United FC on Sunday in a semi-final. What are a few keys to that game that you’re focusing on?
We’re under no illusions, Minnesota are a good team. They’re one of the top teams in the league. They’re going to cause us problems, but we don’t fear any team. There’s no reason why we should. For any problem Minnesota can cause us, we can cause them as well. I think the top 4 teams have made the playoffs. Any fans of the NASL and any fans coming out to see us Sunday, they’re going to be in for a very good game of football.
Minnesota forward Christian Ramirez was the leading scorer for the Fall Season. Does the team change anything when you face a high end scorer like him?
I don’t think you can. Christian Ramirez, all you have to do is look at his goal scoring record. He finishes chances, so it’s important for us as a team to make sure that we are strong defensively like we have been all season to limit decent chances Sunday afternoon. We won’t be doing any special tactics or we won’t be unmarking or anything like that, we just have to make sure that we defend properly, and limit Minnesota to the least amount of chances as possible, and at the other end if we get one or two chances we need to make sure we take them.
Ok Richie, these have been pretty easy questions so far. Now I’m going to give you some REALLY tough ones. First: what Fury player has the best hair?
That’s a tough one [laughs]. A few of the boys fancy themselves as looking good, and there’s a few boys who think they look good when they don’t. I’d probably say Andrew Wiedeman, he seems to look the same every day.
What two Fury players do you think would be most likely to star in a buddy comedy?
A buddy comedy? Oof, I’ll have to go with Andrew Wiedeman again, and I’ll throw Mason Trafford in there as well. I think there’s a good difference between the two of them. I think they’d probably take the mickey out if they were together.
And last one. If you were making a team, and you could choose one of these players at their peak, who would you pick? Would it be Assistant Coach Martin Nash, Goalkeeping coach and legend Bruce Grobelaar, or Fury FC President John Pugh?
I’ve gotta go with Nashy. He can still spray balls around the pitch, left foot, right foot… So I would’ve liked to have seen him in action, just to see how good he was. I think he’s nearly 40, and he still probably has the most ability of anyone on our squad, but at the same time he can’t move anymore [laughs]. But in his defence he says he couldn’t move when he was a player either. But obviously Bruce is a legend at Liverpool, I actually grew up watching Bruce on TV.
Is that weird? Having him as a coach now, after having watched him on TV?
It is weird, because growing up back in Ireland you watch a lot of Liverpool, a lot of English football. A lot of my friends back home are die-hard Liverpool fans, so when I told them Bruce was coming in as goalkeeping coach, they couldn’t believe it. So he’s had things signed for me and everything to take back home with me.
That’s it from me. Thanks so much for your time, Richie. Best of luck to you and to Fury FC on Sunday.
Come out and support Richie and the rest of Ottawa Fury FC this Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. The match starts at 3pm at TD Place. Tickets are available here.