The Ottawa Fury played their season’s home opener Saturday, April 18 in front of 5,093 fans. After a long bleak winter in the National Capital region, footy fans were more than a little excited for a day out supporting their team on a warm and sunny, but windy afternoon. Spirits were high and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. And fans were rewarded with a win in the team’s first home game, an important first step in making TD Place the fortress that it was not last season.
With everyone back from suspensions and most back from injuries, coach Marc Dos Santos started what looks to be the Fury’s core group of players going forward. It was clear from the beginning that the game plan was to attack. The Fury lined up in a slightly modified and very aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation with Romuald Peiser in goal, Brandon Poltronieri, Colin Flavey, Rafael Alves, and Ryan Richter defending, Julian DeGuzman, and Nicki Paterson playing just ahead of them, Paulo Jr, Oliver, and Carl Haworth playing offensively and Tommy Heinemann as the lone striker.
The Fury started the first half with a bit of an advantage. The strong Ottawa wind was on their side. The attacking formation worked well with Ottawa getting all of the chances in the first half putting Minnesota keeper Sam Ndjock to the test early in the game. In the 20th minute Ndjock received a yellow card for handling the ball outside of his box but he came up with a save on the resulting free kick taken by Nicki Paterson. The Fury continued to press forward and looked to be rewarded in the 36th minute but their goal was called back as it was offside. The game remained scoreless in the first half with the Fury firmly in control and Minnesota United unable to register a shot on goal.
In the second half, Minnesota United had the wind on their side and played a more attacking game but it was Tommy Heinemann who put away the game-winning goal for the Ottawa Fury in the 68th minute. United pushed forward looking for an equalizer but their best chance from Kalif Alhassan was cleared away by the Fury defense. Captain Richie Ryan was able to get his first playing minutes of the season after sustaining a minor injury in preseason. He came on for Paulo Jr. at minute 75. Standout performances of the day came from Brazilian forward Paulo Jr. who created many of the chances for the Ottawa Fury FC and Julian DeGuzman who quietly but firmly controlled the midfield alongside Nicki Paterson.
Coach Dos Santos was proud of his team’s performance on the afternoon. When asked what the team did right he answered without hesitation “Everything. We did everything right…we stuck together, we had a fantastic attitude.” His team was well prepared for a difficult game against a very strong Minnesota side. “What I feel is that they really want to win the spring season. Minnesota wants to be in the playoffs as soon as possible…you saw at the end we were under pressure and we dealt well with that.”
The Fury have little time to relish their first win of the season as their next game is Wednesday, April 22 in the Voyageurs Cup against FC Edmonton. Captain Richie Ryan knows exactly what to expect from next game, “With Edmonton, we know what they’re gonna be like. We know what to expect from last season. They gave us tough games last year and I’m sure in the Amway Cup this year it’s not gonna be any different.” And the team have already started preparing mentally for it Ryan explained, “we’re back in tomorrow morning, as soon as we come back in tomorrow morning our heads are focused on Edmonton Wednesday night and we’re focused on Fort Lauderdale next week as well.” The NASL Spring Season schedule is relentless for the Ottawa Fury. Immediately after the Voyageurs Cup game on Wednesday the team will need to begin thinking about their next league game the following Saturday, April 25 at home at TD Place. That can really put not only a team’s physically strength but also mental toughness to the test. Goal scorer Tommy Heinemann is happy for the win at home to give the team that mental boost. “You enjoy this [win] for this evening but I think the guys are already starting to kind of roll their heads towards Wednesday. You know the games are starting to come thick and heavy so it’s important to be able to rebound mentally and prepare for that.”