Ottawa Fury FC: 2W-3D-4L, 14th in Eastern Conference
Bethlehem Steel FC: 4W-2D-4L, 5th in Eastern Conference
Slowly, Ottawa Fury FC is digging their way out of a hole.
The fact that Ottawa was ever in last place in the USL Eastern Conference is embarrassing, especially considering this is a conference with Toronto FC II, a team whose parent club does not seem to care one bit about USL success. After going winless in their first six, the Fury have strung together two wins and two ties in their last four games, climbing out of the USL basement into 14th place, and only five points out of a playoff position.
General Manager Julian de Guzman acknowledges the slow start and credits it to multiple factors, including Ottawa’s lack of a proper indoor facility to train in before the snow thaws.
“We got off to a pretty slow start, dealing with injuries, dealing with guys adapting and adjusting to the style of play. [The slow start] has been a historical issue we’ve dealt with in the past. When you train in a bubble with unrealistic dimensions, and then present yourself in a game situation in the actual dimensions, it’s literally impossible. That’s always been an issue for the Fury.”
De Guzman’s decision to sign mostly Canadian players this season had some worried whether or not the team had the quality to compete with the leagues top teams. However the recent stretch of play, including an entertaining draw on Saturday against second place Charleston Battery, in South Carolina, has de Guzman not feeling relief—rather has him looking forward to even stronger play ahead.
“I knew the guys could do more. This is not even half of what we’re capable of doing. The quality that these guys have as individuals, we see it in training all the time, and we also see it in games. We’re coming to this point now where we’re finally showing something, the last four games is exactly how we would’ve wanted to start a season.”
“It’s a deep hole that’s been dug, and we’re trying to figure out how to get ourselves out of it, and I think we’re on our way to climbing out of it. We’re on the way to what we’ve projected us to be, but we’re definitely striving for more.”
New signing on the way?
The decision by forward Sito Seoane to leave the club two weeks ago had many fans scratching their heads. Seoane is an explosive player, but had trouble finding his way into the lineup under new coach Nikola Popovic. He’s since signed with Grindavík in Iceland’s top division.
“He definitely strived to get more playing time” says de Guzman. “It was difficult for him to be patient about it, and at the same time the style of football, it didn’t really sit well with him. I think [Sito moving on] was the best choice for both him and for the club, and we’re quite happy he’s found himself in a better happier place where he can produce and find a fitting system that makes him play to the best of his abilities.”
“Each club and city has it’s own culture, and it’s all about finding the right match. Those are some of the things that comes before what you see on the pitch.”
Seoane’s departure has opened up a roster spot, and with only five goals total scored so far this season, de Guzman indicates the club is looking to sign someone who can finish around the net.
“We’re looking and the window is approaching in the next month or so. We’re definitely preparing for a body to really help us gain more strength and get goals. We’re doing some recruiting, we’re looking at options from Europe, from within the league… We have a good amount of bodies that we’re keeping a close eye on right now. We are definitely approaching to make a move to help reinforce the area that we need to improve on.”
Players to watch
Ottawa forward Adonijah Reid has been a revelation this season. The 18-year old is clearly stronger than last season, no longer getting knocked off the ball nearly as easily as last season. He’s made some opposition defence look silly with his ball control, and Carl Haworth and Steevan Dos Santos have spoken of their growing chemistry with the young player on loan from FC Dallas. Reid is a constant threat with the ball, and it’s only a matter of time before he finds the back of the net.
Bethlehem FC has an enviably balanced attack, with 16 goals scored this season by 12 different players. Forward Santi Moar is perhaps the most offensively-minded on Steel FC, with two goals and a team-leading 21 shots attempted this year. He started in their win against Indy Eleven on Saturday (where he also scored), and he’ll likely see significant playing time Friday night.
Ottawa Fury FC kicks off against Bethlehem Steel FC at TD Place this Friday, May 25th at 7pm. Tickets start at $15 available online and at the TD Place Box Office.