It’s the 2nd last match of the year for Ottawa Fury FC and they’re up against Tampa Bay Rowdies who are striving to make the NASL playoffs. With the Rowdies sitting only a few points from securing the 4th and final playoff position, they were guaranteed to give it their all in order to secure the spot. For Ottawa, we’re looking at a different story. Already eliminated from the playoffs, the team has not been particularly impressive in their remaining matches, and are playing for “pride”. To make matters worse, none of the players or fans know what league the team will be playing in next season. With extremely low morale heading into the final away game, even a draw would seem optimistic.
Despite this, the Fury came out of the gate looking decent. By the 8th minute, Williams would take a corner that would curl toward Edwards, which would be picked off by Pickens. The 14th would see a pair of corners from Williams bounce harmlessly away, and another corner in the 16′ would get knocked away without reaching Obasi, its intended target. The Rowdies would get their first corner in the 18′, only to have it cleared by Tissot. In the 21′, Heinemann would take Obasi’s foot to his leg and earn a free kick from just outside Ottawa’s box. Peiser would punch it directly at Tampa’s Avila, who would uncontrollably knock it safely over the Fury net. Avila would miss a clean cross in the 23′, despite being unmarked by Fury defenders and with Peiser out-played wide of the net.
A technicality would change the whole feel of the match only a couple minutes later. Up until the 26′, Fury were playing decent, but the Rowdies were looking a better side. The ball found its way into the feet of Williams who would spring ahead toward the Rowdies goal. Just outside the box, King, the last man back, would trip him up, thereby ruining his run. The foul would be an instant red card, sending King from the game and putting the Fury a man up in the 26′. With Ottawa having royally bungled man advantages in order to lose to FC Edmonton and Puerto Rico FC earlier this year, the man advantage would not necessarily be an advantage. The resulting free-kick would be taken by Haworth at the wall. The bounce would come to Tissot, whose kick would bounce the ball past Pickens and between the post. Fury would take the lead.
The Fury seemed to play better after the goal, but that may be due to the man advantage. The game was called to a break in the 35′ when a good challenge from Obasi would see his foot get caught up under Avila and hitting his leg hard. Avila would be carried from the field on a stretcher in the 43′, to be replaced by Savage. Tampa would hold off the Fury throughout the remainder of the half, including 11′ of stoppage time. Edwards would take a yellow in the 45+4′ for a tackle on PC, but otherwise the half was entertaining although unremarkable.
The second half was rough, for everyone. In the 48′ Hristov would sprint behind the defense, out-pace Alves, and beat Peiser who came out of the net to meet the challenge. Thanks to Hristov, Tampa had equalized the match, again proving that for the Fury, there is no such thing as a man “advantage.” With energy now flowing into the Rowdies, they would provide a very dramatic 2nd half. Alves would take a somewhat questionable yellow in the 69′, but otherwise the match would hold relatively level between two sides. The intensity of the play and the passion from the players was wonderful.. Until it suddenly wasn’t.
Passion began to boil over somewhere around the 80′, and both sides began tackling hard. In the 90′ Edwards would take his 2nd yellow the night, sending him red-faced and red-carded from the match. With 6′ of injury time, and both sides playing with 10-men, the scrapping between the teams was out of control. PC would take a yellow at 90+3′, and Hristov would earn a red at 90+5′. It would take a couple minutes for the referees to calm things down enough for Fury to play the final minute of 10 v 9, ending the match with a draw. The draw would not be enough for the Rowdies, who were eliminated from play-off contention as a result.
With the last away match now out of the way, the Ottawa Fury just have one final game against Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Judging by today’s match, it looks like Ottawa has some life in it still. Fort Lauderdale was also eliminated from playoff contention this evening, so the final match is just for pride for either side. I’d expect Ottawa to field DeBellis and some of their less-experienced players in order to give them some time on field. The final match (likely their final NASL match) isn’t important, so it would be a great opportunity to see who they should pull into their USL starting line-up. If Ottawa does move to USL, it looks like they’re building a fiery rivalry with the Tampa Bay Rowdies who are also rumoured to be moving to US 3rd Division.