While the Ottawa Fury FC have been busy with the NASL season and Voyageurs Cup games, the Fury Academy has been quietly working away on teams of their own. Last year, the Academy teams went through quite a bit of cutting and restructuring as technical director Phillip Dos Santos had a vision for the academy program to adjust to long-term goal of a more European style of development. Much of the previous system was scrapped and what we are left with is a Junior Team at the U-17 level, a Senior Team at the U-19 level, and a Girls U-18 Team. What Phillip knew was that a talented coach from England was scheduled to come in and take charge of the Junior Team and be a large part of the Fury’s new Academy system. Darko Buser is an experienced academy coach with 12 years at Chelsea FC to his name. Since his arrival in November of last year, he has been working closely with both Phillip and Marc Dos Santos on the Academy system that the Fury will use going forward.
The idea is for the academy teams to train with the same system, and play with the same formation as the first team. The system that the coaching staff has developed will put young players in a professional soccer environment with 3 to 4 training sessions per week and a game on the weekend. To build consistency between all the teams and make the transition up the ranks to the first team a bit easier to take. Buser describes the system saying, “basically what we’re trying to do is create habits. It’s very important for us that we copy the model of the first team. So we basically train the same way as the first team. They learn the methodology and the coaching matrix. It’s created by Marc Dos Santos and Phillip Dos Santos and the academy is very well linked to the first team.” Defender Mohammed Dagnogo is a player who has already progressed to that level. He saw some playing time with the first team in the Ottawa Fury’s pre season games and has been consistently training with them. Buser has seen his work ethic and described him as “a young prospect that we feel fits the profile of the player that our first team will need in the future. He’s physical and his positions are very good. As a young player coming into the professional environment it can be intimidating, but I think he took it well.” To Buser and the rest of the Fury management, it’s important to have that pool of players to draw on. “If we can produce at least one or two players to go through the ranks that would be a big success for us.”
The Academy Teams will be playing in the PLSQ (La Première Ligue de Soccer du Québec) and PLSQ Reserve Leagues in Québec this year and that is something that will not be easy for either squad. The Senior Team will play in the PLSQ with athletes older than squad’s U-19 age, and the Junior Team will compete against PLSQ reserve squads. The size and maturity of the PLSQ players, along with the physical play the league is known for will be something for both Academy Teams to overcome. “It’s going to be challenging for both Seniors and Juniors. And we don’t know what to expect from the league to be honest. We’re going to wait for our first two games and then we’re going to see how we’re going to adapt to it. But from a development point of view it’s very important for our players to kind of be in an environment where they can progress and learn.” Buser also mentioned that if the league proves to be a bit strong for the level of the team, they have the option to rely on players from a higher level. “We can always get a few players from the first team coming down and Seniors coming down to Juniors. So we’ll kind of mix them up a little bit.”
Another hurdle the Academy has had to deal with is facilities. With games of the Women’s World Cup being played in Ottawa this June, both the first team and academy teams have had to get a bit creative with training facilities. And with no clear home pitch for the season, the both teams of the Fury Academy will be playing at multiple pitches around the city. For this season they will be playing some games at Carleton University and TD Place when it is free. Then, when the Women’s World Cup is over, the Academy will adopt Algonquin College as their home ground. Buser added that for the long term he would love to see an academy specific training complex. “You need facilities. Looking forward you would like to take the best route, get a little piece of land and build our own training ground and this would be fantastic for the club. This way you can do something really special.”
Both academy teams have been training indoors through the winter since November, and have just recently been able to get outside to train. And when the season starts this weekend on May 3 at 4:00pm at Raven Road Field, Carleton University, Buser believes both teams will be up to the challenge. “I’m pleased with the progress, the way we work. I think they are ready. They are ready mentally and physically too. I’m very excited.”
Photo courtesy of Ottawa Fury.