Ottawa Fury FC: 0W-0D-3L, 16th in Eastern Conference
North Carolina FC: 1W-0D-3L, 13th in Eastern Conference
After a disappointing three game road trip to start the 2018 USL season, Ottawa Fury FC is looking to come home and make TD Place what it once was: a fortress.
Not long ago, the stadium at Lansdowne Park was a place visitors would struggle to steal points from. After a difficult 2017 season, players know they need to rebuild their home field rep.
Defender Kyle Porter is looking forward to the challenge, and showing the home crowd what this year’s team is about. “We can’t wait… We have so much to prove. TD Place is our fortress, we don’t want anyone to come in there and step on us.”
They’ll take on a familiar foe in North Carolina FC. This is NCFC’s first year in the USL, after jumping the sinking ship that is/was the NASL. Ottawa holds a 4W-2D-3L lifetime record over the team from Raleigh, NC, formerly known as the Carolina Railhawks. The first win in Fury FC franchise history was a 4-0 victory over Carolina on April 26, 2014. Ottawa will look to maintain that winning record when they get reacquainted on Saturday.
In the first three games of the season, only three players, Colin Falvey, Chris Mannella and Kévin Oliveira have started each game. With several players injured (and Onua Obasi with two games left to serve of a three-game suspension), coach Nikola Popovic has yet field his strongest team.
Questionable, though, has been his choice of players to bring on the road to each game. Choosing to travel with fewer players and more coaches, some notable players were left at home last weekend. Ottawa’s lone goalscorer, so far this season, Sito Seoane, did not even make the trip to Pittsburgh, with no signs of an injury.
The Fury have seemed often disjointed so far. With a lineup in continual flux, Popovic is relying on training sessions to build cohesion. We predicted a slow start to the season while the team becomes familiar with Popovic’s style, and the coach should be given plenty of time to let the roster gel. It will be interesting to see what the starting XI looks like on Saturday after another week of training.
Even more interesting will be the decision in goal. Last year, Callum Irving played every single minute of the season, and was the presumptive starter for 2018. However, in two starts, he did not look like the Irving of old and made some very un-Irving-like mistakes. Maxime Crépeau was given the start in Pittsburgh, and by all accounts was stellar. Popovic may choose to give Callum another shot in the home opener, hoping that losing his starting position for a game reignites Irving’s game. However, if Crépeau gets the start on Saturday and plays well again, the Fury may run with him as their starter for the time being.
Keys to the match: Passing
Ottawa’s passing last weekend was atrocious. Passing accuracy was just shy of 54 per cent, and in their opponents end it was a mere 43 per cent. It was not until extra time that Ottawa strung a few successful passes together on the attack. Otherwise, the only times Fury FC looked at all threatening came from individual efforts, particularly Tony Taylor showing some impressive speed. Popovic’s style is all about possession, so you can imagine his frustration watching his team with control of the ball only 39 per cent of the time. Ottawa needs to connect on more passes, especially in the opposing end. Otherwise, they may as well put a potted shrub on the field and call it Steevan Dos Santos.
Player to watch: Daniel Rios
The 23-year-old Mexican is currently on loan to NCFC from Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico’s Liga MX. He is responsible for two of North Carolina’s four goals so far this season, and leads the team in shots (11) and shots-on-target (4). Clearly the teams offensive leader so far, he’s extremely dangerous within the 18-yard box, and can finish with his boot or his head. Here’s hoping Falvey, Fury’s central defensive linchpin, is up to the task.
Ottawa gets it’s first point of the season with a 1–1 draw.
Ottawa Fury FC plays their home opener versus North Carola FC at TD Place this Saturday, April 21. Kickoff is at 2pm. Tickets start at $15 available online and at the TD Place Box Office.