From previous matches, we knew what we should have expected from the match. There would be long stretched where play would be essentially locked down by either side, and brief moments of actual fury from players and coaches alike. After all, it was during the Rayo OKC vs Fury FC spring finale that Fury coach Dalglish received a red card and was ejected from the match. (Edit: As pointed out by Twitter user @BlogFuryFC Not technically a red card, but similar effect. Dalglish was ejected from the match and suspended from the following match. Shorted the team a coach instead of a player for remainder of match.) Theoretically, the score should have been relatively tight, with Rayo eventually winning. ELO, including home-field advantage, put a 67.4% favour to the home team, but without home-field the difference was only 53.8%-46.2%. So it should have been slow, with some fire, and a close match.
It did live up to at least one of those expectations. The match was dreadfully slow and massively dull. Despite the Fury being the team I’ve cheered for consistently since they first entered the NASL, Sunday’s match was not what I had come to expect. After all, back in February 2016 Dalglish told us “… part of my responsibility … [is] to make sure the players play a style of football that is entertaining for the fans, that they enjoy watching, to create an atmosphere, via the style of play, that people want to shout about.” Well, fans do want to shout about some of what happened on Sunday, but the play certainly wasn’t entertaining.
The first real excitement didn’t arrive until a cross from Williams to Gentile in the 28′. Gentile would put a head on the ball and send it right past the keeper into the back of the net. As the first goal on an extremely windy evening with a setting sun blinding the players, this was immensely important. It was a great cross. It was a great header. The 28′ prior to the goal, there was basically nothing worth reporting, except that the announcers warned us that the match between these two would often have “long lulls” between action.
Viewers could return to their near-comatose state for about 8 minutes, as both sides took turns losing passes to each other about the midfield. In the 36′, things would go South for the Fury. With the ball speeding toward the net, but no OKC player within 10-feet, Roberts and Obasi would collide with Peiser while trying to retrieve the ball. As a result, the ball would bounce back away from the net and into the waiting feet of Rayo’s Futty, who nonchalantly passed it over to Michel. Michel would hold it for a brief moment, take his time, and then casually flip it, unchallenged, into the back of the net. Fury would try to pressure late in the half, but Rayo would effectively stonewall them at every run. The half-time whistle could not come soon enough.
Dalglish’s half-time speech is something I’m sure we never want to hear. Clearly, it failed to inspire the team, because upon their return to the field, they did not play well, except for Peiser. The keeper would be forced to stand on his head throughout the half. Right off the draw, he made some clutch saves against headers by Ibeagha and Futty. Alas, if you’re relying 100% on your keeper to stonewall the competition, you’re bound to lose out eventually. In the 62′ Forbes would outrun Fury’s back man and slam it past Peiser for the go-ahead goal.
The match would see a return to dull-play from either side, even as Williams, Tissot, Gentile and Haworth would strive to get close to Rayo’s net. Getting close enough to try a shot was generally shut down by Rayo’s defense, and the few attempts in the general direction of the net were not even close to beating the keeper. In the 84′, Ottawa would be forced on the defense again after yet another mid-field bungle. Forbes would bring it in deep, side-step Fury’s Edwards, and send it across for an unmarked Michel. With the ball flying between the pipes, Peiser had little chance to stop Michel’s 2nd goal of the night. This goal would cement Rayo’s victory, and keep their quest for the final play-off spot alive. Ottawa’s loss would finally eliminate them from miracle-level playoff contention (mathematically).
These past couple of matches are, in essence, try-outs for the Fury. The players should be giving it their all in order to prove they deserve to remain in the NASL next year. After tonight’s match, the list of players that belong at this level of play is rapidly shrinking. Peiser, despite the sloppy first-goal, was definitely the best man on the field for the team tonight. Between him, Tissot, Gentile, and Williams, we’ve covered everyone who is NASL-quality, based on this match. Obasi, Edwards, Haworth, and Porter all have a lot to prove if they’re hoping to get picked up by an NASL team in the offseason. If this match was any indication, the team is suffering from a serious lack of confidence and skill right now.
The biggest question though, is the coach. Dalglish is on record claiming “Winning isn’t enough,” but he can’t even seem to get the team to win, let alone provide the “entertainment” he thinks they should be providing. As we can see from FC Edmonton’s attendance numbers, he’s right that winning won’t ensure business success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. And as someone who lived in Ottawa for over a decade, I have a secret for you: most Ottawa fans are fair-weather. When you’re winning, you can pack the house. When you’re losing, you’re worried about going bankrupt. This is easily visible with the local NHL team: the Senators struggle to survive when they aren’t challenging to make the playoffs. Melnyk’s pockets are deeper than OSEG’s, so you need to win. When you have that down, you can focus on making it entertaining, though that’ll probably take care of itself.
We still await word on the fate of the Ottawa Fury for the 2017 season. Rumours are firmly claiming a move to the USL as a “done deal,” but as the team has yet to apply for approval from the CSA, the actual move is in limbo. Finger crossed we receive concrete word sometime soon.