Can the Fury beat Vancouver and move on to the Voyageur Cup finals?
Ottawa, this is a big deal. On Wednesday, June 1, Fury FC will host the Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada’s most storied pro soccer team, in the second round of the Voyageurs Cup (or Amway Canadian Championship). Ottawa earned that second round berth after beating FC Edmonton 3-2 in their two-game series. The game will be the Fury’s first ever test against MLS competition, and is arguably the biggest game in team history.
“We’re confident, we’re in great form,” Fury head coach Paul Dalglish said this week. We had some really good results leading up to the last game. Even though we lost the last game, we’ve grown in confidence. If you analyze the performance rather than the score, it was as good of a performance as we’ve had all season. We go into this game in great confidence and great excitement to produce another quality display in front of our home supporters.”
Ottawa is coming off a 2-1 loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Fury FC’s first loss at home since last August. The home side deserved a better fate, with the majority of possession and chances. See the highlights here:
The Whitecaps arrive in Ottawa coming off a 1-1 tie with Houston Dynamo on Saturday at B.C. Place. They currently sit in third place in the MLS’ Western Conference, and hold a 6-3-6 record (6 wins, 3 decisions, 6 losses) so far this MLS season.
In many ways, the Whitecaps and Fury FC were very similar teams in 2015. Both were renowned for their defence. The Whitecaps were tied for fewest goals against and had the most shutouts in MLS. Sound familiar? It should. Ottawa had by far the fewest goals allowed and the most shutouts in the NASL. This year, both teams have started their seasons struggling a bit on that side of the ball. Vancouver’s problem? According to coach Carl Robinson, it’s individual mistakes.
“If you look at individual errors … far, far too many. We need to cut them out. If we cut them out we’ve got half a chance.”
Vancouver is by no means a perfect team. Their defence tends to overcommit, and they have not been finishing their chances well. And the gap between MLS and NASL teams is not as wide as some might think. Any NASL team can beat any MLS on any given night. Ottawa has shown it can produce chances, and if they can capitalize on mistakes committed by the Whitecaps, they have every chance to walk away with a win on Wednesday.
Dalglish: “We’ve got to forget about the fact that it’s Vancouver Whitecaps, and concentrate on ourselves really, and try to make sure that we really play our way. The most important thing for us is to get better each game, and I think we’re doing that. This is another chance for us to get better.”
Ottawa goalkeeper Romuald Peiser, blood still boiling from a rare mistake he made on Friday which led to the winning goal, is looking for a strong performance, and to be rewarded for it. “We know we’re subject to be punished if we make any stupid mistakes, so we need to be focused as always. In professional sports, you need the results. It’s nice to play well, or whatever… If you can play well and have the results, that’s even better.”
Both teams will be missing some key players who have been called up to their international squads. Fury FC will be missing captain Julian de Guzman and midfielder Marcel de Jong. Vancouver will be missing last years’ team MVP Kendall Waston, and midfielder Christian Bolanos (Costa Rica), as well as striker Blas Pérez (Panama). With a busy schedule of late, expect the Whitecaps to play a few of their younger, less experienced, players. Something else Ottawa will need to capitalize on.
Last year, young Fury midfielder Mauro Eustáquio had a breakout season. Then-captain Richie Ryan took him under his wing, he scored two goals, and even got a call-up to play with Team Canada for some Olympic qualifying games. This year, with a new coach and new lineup, Eustáquio is starting from the bottom again. Through 8 games, Mauro has appeared in 4 games, each as a substitute, for a total of 81 minutes. He may be due for a start. With de Jong away on national team duty, Eustáquio should be given a chance to show if he is still in the same form that earned him a national team call-up last year.