The Ottawa Fury were looking to get back in winning form on Saturday against the second place Tampa Bay Rowdies, after a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks. The Fury were coming off of a tough schedule of back to back league games and Voyageurs Cup games. They had lost their last two league games as well as both Voyageurs Cup games and knew they had to end their streak of bad luck. They returned home to the comfort of TD Place and their home fans after a 1-0 away loss in New York against the first place Cosmos the previous week. Coach Marc Dos Santos was level headed about the situation saying it was “important to stop that losing streak and it’s important to have a positive result even if we don’t get the win. If the Ottawa Fury doesn’t win, well, they can’t lose.”
Injuries have also been nagging the Fury lately and with five players out, Dos Santos had to rely on the depth of his squad. They would have to do without captain Richie Ryan, defender Mike Randolph, winger Oliver, striker Tommy Heinemann, and midfielder Philippe Davies. The Fury returned to their signature 4-3-3 formation. Defender Mason Trafford’s hard work in practice paid off as he returned to the starting eleven at left back alongside Colin Flavey, Rafael Alves, and Ryan Richter. Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Drew Beckie, and Julian DeGuzman lined up in the midfield and Brandon Poltronieri, Andrew Wiedeman, Carl Haworth lead the attack against Rowdies’ keeper Matt Pickens, as the forwards. They were going up against a Rowdies squad in the same formation featuring a strong midfield composed of Marcelo Saragosa, Martin Nunez, and Richard Menjivar.
Both goalkeepers were tested early on in the first half as Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Tampa Bay’s Corey Hertzog traded shots on goal around the 10-minute mark, but were equal to the task and the score remained at zero. Injury struck again for the Fury when defender Rafael Alves and keeper Romuald Peiser collided and went down. Both were slow to recover and Alves was forced to sit the rest of the game out needing stitches in his leg. Mauro Eustaquio was called on to come into Drew Beckie’s spot in the midfield as he dropped back to fill Alves’ spot in the central defence. The Fury ended the first half with a couple of good chances from both midfielder Julian DeGuzman and forward Andrew Wiedeman, but neither could find the back of the net and the gamed remained scoreless at half time.
Both teams saw an even amount of possession in the second half but it was the Tampa Bay Rowdies who found more chances in the opening minutes. Midfielder Martin Nunez and defender Stefan Antonijevic both had opportunities but the Fury’s back line were solid and the teams remained deadlocked. Then in the 78th minute a poor decision from the referee kept the Fury from a chance that could have seen the game end differently. The Fury were awarded a corner and the ball sailed into the box hitting Rowdies defender Stefan Antonijevic’s hand. It was a clear hand ball but the referee did not make the call amid protests from both the squad and their supporters. Ottawa had a few more chances as the second half drew to a close but could not convert and the match ended in a 0-0 draw.
Although the team would have preferred a win, the Fury were happy to put a stop to their losing streak. Coach Dos Santos was satisfied with a point but had hoped for a different result. “With Rafa going down and Mauro has to come in, Oliver out, Richie out, Mike out, Tommy out, and we’re still able to fight through and get a point. It was an ok result but we just felt we could have won the game.” The team looked stronger defensively which is something Dos Santos is proud of. “Today Mason had a very good defensive game as a left back. Beckie was dropped to centre back and was fantastic. He was an animal in that position. Richter was an animal. The midfielders worked very hard. We’re doing one thing right, as a unit we’re defending well” Midfielder Maruo Eustaquio felt the same way, “It’s not bad. You know we’ve come from a pretty tough stretch with the Amway games and whatnot. Four loses but defensively we’re better. We didn’t concede. The team’s been working well.” Converting chances into goals has not been coming easily for the Ottawa Fury and it’s something they are looking to improve. Said midfielder Julian DeGuzman, “we get in the attack a lot. We’re getting crosses in, a couple shots off. But being able to convert those chances, I think that’s pretty clear that needs to improve.” The Fury have a bye-week this week and will use the time to get refocused and return to full strength for their next game against Indy Eleven at TD Place on Saturday May 23. DeGuzman says the attitude in the dressing room is a positive one. “We remain united and I think that’s the most important thing no matter what the result is, it’s a good sign of character and I think it’s something that we need in the long term.”
Photo by Steve Kingsman courtesy of Ottawa Fury FC.