Last Saturday, the Ottawa Fury faced the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the first of a two game home and away series for the Ottawa side. The game, which ended in a 0-0 draw was anything but boring with both teams trading chances all afternoon. It took some heroics from both keepers to deny either team a goal. It was clear through the match that these two teams were on even ground.
While the Ottawa Fury were working their way up the NASL standings, Fort Lauderdale had been on a streak all their own. The team came into Ottawa with an unbeaten streak of 5 games after a dominating 7-1 victory over Indy Eleven the previous week. Buoyed by this confidence and with league leading goal scorer Stefano Pinho leading the way, the Strikers hoped to get something from the match in Ottawa. But is was the Ottawa Fury’s net minder Romuald Peiser who denied the Strikers by coming up with several acrobatic saves to earn himself another clean sheet and a spot on the NASL Team of the Week.
The Strikers returned home to Fort Lauderdale to face the Jacksonville Armada this Wednesday, September 16 and posted a confident 2-0 victory extending their unbeaten streak to 6 games and propelling them up the standings to 4th place in both the fall and combined table. With goals from Martin Freitas and James Marcelin, the Florida side showed they are determined to earn a spot in the post season and setting the tone for their upcoming match against the traveling Ottawa Fury this Saturday September 19. Looking ahead to the match, head coach Marc Dos Santos remarked, “You’re talking about two teams that want to make the playoffs. They’re going to fight for it so you expect that it’s going to be very tough and very physical game.”
The Fury are facing a tumultuous time ahead on their way to the post season. After an unsettling announcement on Tuesday that head coach Marc Dos Santos would be leaving his post at the end of the season for a position in Major League Soccer, the Fury are set to embark on an intense road trip playing 3 matches in one week testing the strength and endurance of the squad. Although Dos Santos has said the announcement would affect neither his nor the team’s focus on getting through to the post season, the awkward timing of such news sent shock waves through the Fury’s fans and supporters on Tuesday. Dos Santos was very clear where his focus lies for the remainder of the 2015 NASL season. “I’m with the club, with the city, in the two most important months that we’re going to have in the rest of the season…We’re still very very focused in our locker room on what’s coming ahead. It’s a very difficult week with three games in nine days and a very difficult two months to try to qualify and make the playoffs. It’s going to be a battle.”
Currently the Fury sit at the top of the NASL Fall Standings, tied with Minnesota United with 25 points, but with a game in hand. They slipped to third place in the combined standings three points behind United, a reminder that anything can happen in the NASL and the post season is never a sure thing. If the Fury hope to make it to the playoffs, they are going to have to focus on making some points on the road and make the most of their game in hand. They start off a demanding schedule, travelling on Friday to play 3 games in quick succession leaving little time for recovery and no time to return home to Ottawa for training. After playing in Florida on Saturday, the team continues straight to New York to take on the Cosmos the following Tuesday. Then it’s off to Carey, North Carolina to face the Railhawks the Saturday after that. While a decent road record this season of 3W-4D-2L is a small comfort to Fury fans, the relentless schedule will no doubt be a test of the team’s character.