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Photo: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography

Season Preview: Predictions for Ottawa Fury FC before the USL opener on Saturday—03.17.18

By Josh Lemoine on March 13, 2018

2017 season record: 8W, 14D, 10L
2017 league position: 10th in the USL Eastern Conference
2017 playoffs: DNQ
2017 Average attendance: 5,427

Ottawa’s 2018 season kicks off in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 17 versus Charlotte Independence. It’s the first of four straight road games to start the season before the club’s home opener on April 21 at TD Place. Before Fury FC hit the pitch, Apt613 is here to get you all caught up with the team, who’s new, and what to expect from this season.

Off-season recap

First off, 2017 did not go as planned for the Fury. In what was hoped to be a rebound year, after a disappointing 2016 season, 2017 saw head coach Paul Dalglish resign with 12 games to go, when it was clear the team was not improving and the USL playoffs had all but slipped out of reach.

Former team captain and then-assistant coach Julian de Guzman took over as interim head coach, and handled the situation admirably. While Fury FC could have completely fallen off the rails, de Guzman provided a much needed steady hand, stewarding the team until season’s end.

Head Coach Nikola Popovic. Photo: Chris Hofley.

In December, the club announced Julian would be taking over as GM full-time. His first move was to appoint Nikola Popovic as head coach. While de Guzman showed great potential, and will be a great coach if one day he decides to pursue that role, Fury FC needed someone with proven experience at the head coaching position. Popovic, a dual citizen of Serbia and Portugal, has managed teams in Portugal, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and most recently with the USL’s Swope Park Rangers (affiliates of MLS side Sporting Kansas City), where he coached them to last year’s USL Cup final.

Who’s back?

Fury FC has 13 players returning from last years regular lineup, headlined by goalkeeper Callum Irving, defenders Eddie Edward and Onua Obasi, midfielders Gerardo Bruna, Jamar Dixon, plus forwards Steevan Dos Santos and Carl Haworth. In addition, supporters are extra positive about former Fury FC players Colin Falvey, Kyle Porter and Maxim Tissot returning for second stints with the club.

Ottawa native Jamar Dixon in training. Photo: Chris Hofley.

Who’s missing?

Ottawa did not renew the contracts of several players. Notable absences include former captain Lance Rozeboom, defenders Andrae Campbell, Ramon Martin Del Campo, and forwards Tucker Hume and Ryan Williams. I suppose that means no more ‘Wednesdays with Williams’ videos. I’ll be thoroughly disappointed if ‘Falvey Fridays’ isn’t a thing this year.

Mr. Fury

Carl Haworth is, by far, Ottawa’s longest serving player, having been with the team since 2013, when Fury FC played in the semi-pro PDL. Having already earned the nickname “Mr. Fury,” Haworth was recently named team captain for the upcoming season. The designation is well-deserved.

Club captain Carl Haworth celebrates after scoring a goal at TD Place. Photo: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography.

Fans have been able to watch Haworth’s game develop and grow throughout the years along with the club itself. He is the player fans most associate with the club, and with his ball-control and finishing ability, has proven he has the ability to be a game-changer.

2016’s team-leading scorer was greatly missed when injury forced him to miss the first half of 2017. If he can stay healthy for 2018, Haworth will play a significant role in any success the club enjoys.

Quality Canadian Keepers

Last season, 24-year old Callum Irving established himself as an excellent goalkeeper in the USL. He was backed up by fellow Canadians Andrew MacRae and David Paulmin, but Irving played every single minute of the season. This year, MacRae and Paulmin are gone, replaced by two more Canadians: Maxime Crépeau (on loan from Montreal Impact) and David Monsalve (from League1 Ontario’s Vaughan Azzurri).

While de Guzman is quoted as saying the team does not have a designated number one goalie at the moment, it was telling that Irving played all 90 minutes in Ottawa’s final preseason game against the League1 Ontario All-Stars. It’s unlikely Monsalve will see much playing time this season, but Crépeau, with his MLS experience, will push Irving all year, and will likely start several games at least.

L to R: Goalkeepers Callum Irving, David Monsalve (front), Maxime Crépeau, and a trialist. Photo: Chris Hofley.

Players to watch: Dixon, Tissot, Falvey

Ottawa-native Jamar Dixon joined Fury FC in 2016 after playing two seasons with Finnish side FF Jaro. The Carine Wilson High School graduate was voted the Fury’s 2017 Player of the Year, playing in 32 of the club’s 36 games, scoring twice in 1,879 minutes of regular season play. When de Guzman took over as coach, Dixon started to play a bigger role in Ottawa’s attack, and we can likely expect the same with Popovic at the helm. Now an assistant captain, Jamar embodies dogged determination in his pursuit of the ball, and is difficult to dispossess of the ball when he has it. In a system that will focus on dominating possession and simple hard work, Dixon is in a position to thrive this season.

This is Gatineau native Maxim Tissot’s second time joining Fury FC. He originally signed with the Fury partway through the 2016 season, played in 19 games and scored two goals. He left in 2017 to join San Francisco Deltas, who won the NASL Soccer Bowl championship that year. Back in Ottawa for 2018, he’ll likely be used as a defensive midfielder on the left side. An accurate passer, Tissot is able to feed the ball forward quickly when on the attack, but has the speed to get back and defend when needed. Ottawa’s success this season will depend on controlling the middle of the field, and Tissot having a strong year will be key.

Defender Colin Falvey in preseason training. Photo: Chris Hofley.

Speaking of players on their second go with the Fury, Colin Falvey is a player fans will remember fondly from 2015, when Ottawa made its run to the 2015 NASL Soccer Bowl championship game. He spent 2016–17 with Indy Eleven, but Falvey’s back in Ottawa for 2018, and has been named an assistant captain. He’s known for thunderous tackles, and will likely be on the field in all key situations. Along with teammates Eddie Edward and Nana Attakora, Falvey will lead what could be a fearsome defensive core.

2018 predictions

After a 2017 season where even the lowest expectations weren’t met, there is optimism in Ottawa for 2018. De Guzman has shown a desire to make Ottawa a destination for Canadian talent abroad. He has assembled a roster that, with 13 Canadians currently under contract (though Jimmy-Shammar Sanon is committed to the Haitian national program), is more than 50% Canadian.

Born in Quebec, Jimmy-Shammar Sanon has chosen to represent Haiti at the national level. Photo courtesy of Ottawa Fury FC.

On paper, it’s an upgraded roster over last year, but they’ll be in tough against an USL Eastern Conference that is, overall, improved over last season. Teams like FC Cincinnati, Louisville City and Tampa Bay should fight for top position, while newcomers Nashville and Atlanta United 2 have the potential to surprise. Expect Ottawa to start slowly this season. hey’ll likely need time to gel, and starting the season with four away games won’t help. But if the team can stay relatively healthy, they should end the season in the top 8.

As for this years Canadian Championship, Ottawa will be facing the winner of League1 Ontario champions Oakville Blue Devils and PLSQ champions AS Blainville. We can expect Fury FC to move on to the semifinal round, where they will face the best team in MLS: Toronto FC. Ottawa has a history of big upsets playing MLS teams at home, having defeated all three of Toronto, Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps in previous years, only to lose on aggregate. A win or tie at home this year would be their biggest upset yet.

Apt613 Predictions

USL regular season: 48 points
League position: 6th in the East
Playoffs: Eastern conference final
Canadian Championship: semifinal
Top scorer: Carl Haworth (12)
Most minutes: Nana Attakora
Breakout year: Kevín Oliveira
Clean sheets: 6 in all competitions
Goals for: 52 in all competitions
Goals against: 40 in all competitions

Ottawa Fury FC 2018 Roster

GK – Maxime Crépeau 🇨🇦
GK – Callum Irving 🇨🇦
GK – David Monsalve 🇨🇦
D – Nana Attakora 🇨🇦
D – Eddie Edward 🇨🇦
D – Colin Falvey
D – Thomas Meilleur-Giguère 🇨🇦
D – Onua Obasi
D – Kyle Porter 🇨🇦
M – Gerardo Bruna
M – Jamar Dixon 🇨🇦
M – Kevín Oliveira
M – Sergio Manesio
M – Cristian Portilla
M – Michael Salazar
M – Maxim Tissot 🇨🇦
F – Steevan Dos Santos
F – Carl Haworth 🇨🇦
F – Azake Luboyera
F – Adonijah Reid 🇨🇦
F – Jimmy-Shammar Sanon 🇨🇦
F – Sito Seoane
F – Tony Taylor
F – Gabriel Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti 🇨🇦

Ottawa Fury FC kicks off their 2018 season in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 17 versus Charlotte Independence. A local supporters’ club is hosting a viewing party at Vimy Brewing Company (145 Loretta Ave N) on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7pm. Fury FC’s home opener will be April 21 at TD Place versus North Carolina FC. Season tickets are available online and at the TD Place Box Office.