It has been a busy off-season for Ottawa Fury manager Paul Dalglish, and he will no doubt be happy with what he has accomplished thus far. In stark contrast to last season, when Dalglish arrived to several transfer requests and contracts he didn’t negotiate, the gaffer has had time to implement his stamp on the squad this offseason and has a roster full of players that he himself has put together. The signings Dalglish has made, impressed during a pre-season friendly on Friday evening, just five weeks ahead of the start of the 2017 USL season.
Ottawa Fury were able to avoid all the off-season drama involving the NASL by leaving the league in 2016 and securing their spot in the 2017 USL season, a move made to ensure the longevity of the club. With FC Montreal officially folding, Fury have become Montreal Impact’s USL affiliate club in a deal that allows Fury to maintain their independence as a club. The deal also gives Dalglish full autonomy over Fury’s roster, which currently includes three Impact players that he has chosen to bring to Ottawa.
Two weeks ago, now former Ottawa Fury captain Julian De Guzman announced his retirement from professional football and his entrance into coaching. The Canadian legend, who wore the captain’s armband for both club and country, will remain in Ottawa with Fury FC in an assistant coaching role alongside Jed Davies and head coach Paul Dalglish. Replacing De Guzman as club captain is midfielder Lance Rozeboom, who was captain of Austin Aztec’s under Dalglish during his tenure there and expressed strong leadership capabilities in 2016 with Ottawa.
While the club has said goodbye to well-known players such as Romuald Peiser and Rafael Alvez, the new class of players coming in for the upcoming season appear to have been brought in in order to fit Dalglish’s style of play. Andrae Campbell has been brought in to bring speed and energy down the left side, while Tucker Hume and Steevan Dos Santos have been brought in to help increase the goal tally. The backline has been improved upon by bringing in towering defender Ramon Del Campo and Irishman Shane McEleney. Seoane and Manesio have been brought in to provide grit and strength through the middle. Perhaps the most thrilling addition to the Fury roster is keeper Callum Irving, a young Canadian that is currently emerging on the national scene.
Ottawa played their first pre-season game on Friday evening vs the Ottawa Internationals, an Ottawa development club, winning a comfortable 7-0. While Fury were expected to ease past their opponents, it was quite clear that the squad was looking very fit and organized. There was plenty of pace down the flanks and a lot of skill and determination through the middle, providing an entertaining match for a friendly.
Playing with a back three; it appears Dalglish is planning to bring the back three formations he implemented last year in the NASL into the USL for the upcoming season, operating between a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2. With strong defenders such as Del Campo, McEleney, Edward and Venter forming a strong back three; it will allow the speed of Campbell and Obasi to be utilized in a more attacking role. New signing Sergio Manesio appears to be extremely versatile, playing out wide and in the center back position on Friday evening, demonstrating an immense amount of grit and determination to win possession. This means that Callum Irving will need to play a commanding role at the back, ensuring the three defenders are properly marking the opponents. Irving wasn’t tested much on Friday evening but did make one or two good saves and was vocal from the back when needed.
Lance Rozeboom will almost be a certain starter in the midfield for Ottawa Fury this year, although he has shown he is capable of playing in several positions. During Friday night’s match, Rozeboom seemed to be fulfilling the captaincy role with the utmost leadership and guidance. Alongside Rozeboom in central midfield, Manesio, Barden and Bruna were allowed forward in the attack, with the latter scoring two of Ottawa’s seven goals.
Ryan Williams, playing in an advanced role, took care of most of the free kicks and corners, and linked up well with the forwards to create scoring chances. Seoane played a similar role as Williams and showed great determination (he reminded me of a smaller, faster Ubiparipovic) to work the ball forward and scored Fury’s first goal of the night from the penalty spot. Campbell and Dixon were playing right down the touchline, providing a lot of pace and width to the midfield. They seemed very organized, and quick on the counter attack.
Up front, both Tucker Hume and Dos Santos provided pace and height. Dos Santos has lot of pace and was unlucky not to score on the night. His height is certainly a threat to balls being crossed into the box, while Tucker Hume is equally as dangerous in an aerial attack. Hume seems to be extremely composed with the ball at his feet. Netting four of Fury’s seven goals, Hume seemed comfortable playing either as a lone striker or alongside Dos Santos. While one shouldn’t read too much into Hume’s four goals in a friendly, it will no doubt give both the club and the player confidence heading into their upcoming trip to Florida. Carl Haworth didn’t feature in the Friday’s match due to a small injury.
After the match, Dalglish said he was happy to see the goals and a clean sheet. “It was nice to get some quality minutes in against a non-Fury opposition. We wanted to get off to a good start and you can’t get off to a much better start than seven goals and a clean sheet. Really pleased with the work the guys are putting in.”
Fury will play three pre-season matches in Florida against USL opposition before playing three more matches in Canada ahead of their April 1st USL debut. Their matches in Florida will be against St Louis FC (2/21), OKC Energy FC (2/23) and FC Cincinnati (2/25) and will be their first test against USL opposition since the club announced their switching of leagues. Fury will away to Toronto FC II (3/3) before hosting Rochester Rhinos (3/10) and League One Ontario All-Starts (3/17) to round out their 2017 Pre-season schedule.
Stay tuned to Northern Starting XI for a full 2017 Ottawa Fury Season Preview in March!