2015 Ottawa Fury FC NASL Season Preview
By Blog Smith (@BlogFuryFC) & Namu Yoon (@BBSC_SeoulBro)
Club: Ottawa Fury FC
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (City: 883,391; Metropolitan area: 1,236,324). The capital of Canada, Ottawa is situated on the Ontario side of the border between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, with Gatineau forming the Quebec side of the metropolitan area.
Stadium: TD Place Stadium, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, ON
Located near Rideau Canal, one of Ottawa’s most iconic landmarks, the stadium was redeveloped between 2011 and 2014 as part of the plan to bring NASL soccer and CFL football to the city. The stadium is about 15 minutes south of downtown, in a central location within the city. The stadium has a full capacity of 24,000, although much of the north stands and some of the south stands are closed off to give a capacity closer to 8,000 for NASL matches. The club’s 2014 spring season was spent at Carleton University’s Keith Harris Stadium while TD Place was being completed.
Manager: Marc Dos Santos, 37, enters his second season behind the Ottawa Fury FC bench. Dos Santos has managed Montreal Impact in the USL and USSF (winning the 2009 USL First Division title) and Trois-Rivières Attak in the CSL, as well as serving as Technical Director for Desportivo Brasil before returning to Canada to coach the Fury. Dos Santos, affectionately known as MDS among Fury fans, favours a fluid and possession-oriented style of play primarily in the 4-3-3 formation.
Captain: Richie Ryan, DM
As of March 2015, the team captain is DM Richie Ryan, an Irish native who came through the Sunderland academy system, before playing in the Football League, Belgium, Scotland and Ireland. Ryan was named the PFAI Players’ Player of the Year in 2010, voted by players in the League of Ireland. Ryan combines strong leadership, quick short passes and accurate mid-range passes and strong tackling at the heart of the midfield in Ottawa’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.
Key Player: Sinisa Ubiparipovic, AM/LCM
Based on pure talent and performances alone, Ubiparipovic has to be the first name on the Fury FC teamsheet. Playing as the attacking midfielder on the left side of the midfield 3 in the 4-3-3 formation, Ubiparipovic was the main creative playmaker of the team in 2014, with his dangerous through balls to the front 3 often sparking the best chances of the game. However, his focus on offense sometimes distracts him from his defensive duties, which is crucial in stemming the opponent’s attack through the middle. However, his strong ball control skills will ensure that he continues to orchestrate much of the possession-oriented offense that Dos Santos has implemented.
Supporter Groups: The Fury FC currently has three supporter groups. The Bytown Boys are generally the most enthusiastic and can be found at the front of Section W. Stony Monday Riot, standing at the back of Section W, are considered the most original among the groups, often mixing Canadian songs and artists into their chants. The Fury Ultras are a smaller group who have cool shirts.
2014 Review: Finishing in 8th place in the final NASL standings, Ottawa did not set the league on fire in their inaugural season. Jumping from one stadium to another over the summer break did not do the Fury any favours, as they would go on to win only one match in nine games played at the new TD Place. The lowest point came as the Fury started the Fall Season by going four matches without a goal. While Ottawa was competitive in most of its matches in 2014, this stretch caused the Fury to drop out of the playoff hunt early. It was not all bad news for the Fury, however, as players such as Richie Ryan, Romuald Peiser and Oliver gave strong performances and hope for 2015.
Notable Transfers In/Out
In: LB Mike Randolph (Atlanta Silverbacks FC), LB/LW Brandon Poltronieri (Atlanta Silverbacks FC), CB Rafael Alves (Ft. Lauderdale Strikers FC), CB Colin Falvey (Charleston Battery), RB Ryan Richter (Toronto FC), CM Julian de Guzman (Skoda Xanthi, Greece), CM Patryk Misik (Slask Wroclaw, Poland), LW Paulo de Araujo Jr. (Nautico, Brazil), ST Andrew Wiedeman (Toronto FC)
Out: GK Devala Gorrick (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC), GK Chad Bush (CIS), LB Ramon Soria (NK Celje, Slovenia), LB O’Brian Woodbine (Charleston Battery), CB Kenny Caceros (released), CM Tony Donatelli (Baltimore Blast), LW P.R. Mayard (released), CF Vini Dantas (Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
2014 Best Matches
Apr. 26, 2014 – Ottawa vs. Carolina – 4-0 W – First competitive win for Ottawa in NASL history, with a mesmerizing display that has not been matched yet in Ottawa’s history. Of note is Oliver’s brace en route to him being named NASL Player of the Week, the fantastic midfield domination by Ubiparipovic, Donatelli and Ryan, and the selfless running of Carl Haworth in his lone appearance as a ST (who was mostly stationed out on the wings during the season).
May 17, 2014 – Indy vs. Ottawa – 2-4 W – An eagerly anticipated match that did not disappoint at all for Ottawa supporters. It was the Tony Donatelli show, as he had a very well-taken brace, highlighting his dominating performances for Ottawa during the spring season. Ryan also displayed his fantastic distribution of the ball, highlighting the differences between the two expansion cousins.
May 31, 2014 – Ottawa vs. Edmonton – 1-0 W – The season debut of Tom Heinemann, who was laid off for a couple months with a preseason ankle injury, was one of the most memorable moments of Ottawa’s 2014 season. His introduction as a late sub, and then his glancing header from a free kick to win the game in injury time against our Northern cousins ensured that Ottawa would take home the Poutine Cup, as it is known only in America, in their first competitive match-up in the league (the two clubs played twice in the Voyageurs Cup in April, not worth talking about ☺).
Oct. 1, 2014 – Ottawa vs. Atlanta – 2-0 W – Our lone victory in 2014 in our spanking brand-new stadium that we moved into for the fall season came against an Atlanta side that was in free-fall form at the time, and highlighted the fact that Ottawa could earn a professional win at home. Ottawa will be expecting many more of these professional wins at home if they wish to ensure a shot at the playoffs for 2015.
2015 Possible Best XI
Ottawa (4-3-3) (R to L): Peiser; Richter, Rafael Alves, Falvey, Randolph; De Guzman, Ryan, Ubiparipovic; Haworth, Wiedeman, Paulo Jr.
Short version: The Ottawa Fury FC hope to build upon a 2014 season that did not go exactly as planned, but had glimpses of a team that could compete week in and week out with the best teams in the NASL. The Ottawa coaching staff will look for improvements from their youngsters: Oliver, Carl Haworth, Drew Beckie and Mauro Eustaquio, as well as continued standout performances from Richie Ryan, Romuald Peiser and Sinisa Ubiparipovic. The Fury emphasized defense over the course of the offseason, acquiring NASL veterans Mike Randolph, Rafael Alves and Brandon Poltronieri, as well as Irishman Colin Falvey.
The team quite recently made their biggest signing to date, inking Canada MNT captain Julian de Guzman in an attempt to solidify their midfield, which was in need of further depth. The Fury FC will be harder to break down and score on this year, but an ability to put goals in themselves will be tested if Tom Heinemann and newly-signed Andrew Wiedeman can’t step up to give the Fury finishing in the final third that they lacked in 2014. Paulo Junior, another new signing, will be expected to provide further creativity and imagination.
Long version: The offseason has been one that emphasizes a theme of continuity. With 13 players returning from the 2014 squad, including the entire coaching staff, and having 21 players as of the 1st day of preseason camp, the Fury are in a far stronger shape than they were at the start of camp the prior season. With this familiarity comes strong teamwork and a heightened sense of expectations among the players, coaching staff and the fans.
The notable transfers have been across the back 4 and the front 3, as Dos Santos seeks to add strong competition among all 11 positions on the field. There will be an especially intense competition for spots at the 2 CB berths among Rafael Alves, Colin Falvey, Mason Trafford and Drew Beckie, which can only add to what was a good defense in 2014. The squad has far more NASL and MLS experience in its ranks, both from playing in the 2014 season and from bringing in proven stars in the league and those seeking to make their fortunes in NASL after mixed performances in MLS or having conquered much in USL Pro.
The Canadian content of the squad is as strong as ever, with the Fury expected to once again lead in the number of minutes played by Canadians in the squad among all professional sides. The exciting signings in the front 3 have added speed and guile, two qualities that were somewhat lacking in the possession-oriented offense of 2014. Andrew Wiedeman has looked sharp all preseason and currently has the edge over Tom Heinemann, while Carl Haworth has had a strong preseason and has pushed 2014 team-leading scorer Oliver Minatel neck and neck for the starting position at RW.
The late addition of Canada’s MNT captain Julian de Guzman to the central midfield adds the first mainstream name to the Fury FC in their young history, and completely changes the dynamics of the battle for starting berths in midfield. While he may or may not be able to get a game in with the Fury in their last preseason friendly on Tuesday vs. Wake Forest University, de Guzman may very well find himself in the starting lineup come opening day at RCM or at CDM, and will be an integral piece of the squad throughout the season. Nicki Paterson and Patryk Misik have both made strong cases to start at the CM positions throughout preseason, and may have done enough to prevent de Guzman or Ubiparipovic from simply walking into the starting lineup.
As discussed above, the key to a successful 2015 season will be ensuring that the form at home translates to more points at TD Place, as the high % of ball possession must be converted to clear-cut scoring opportunities, all while making sure that the team is ready for the counter-attacks they will face at home. At times, the 4-3-3 formation isolates Ryan in front of the back 4 in transition, and so a 4-2-3-1 formation may be utilised time to time to stop the attacks through the middle, all while maintaining greater possession of the ball.
If and when the team comes together, this team may truly break out strongly in its sophomore season. The anticipation among Fury fans continues to grow.
You can follow Blog Smith on Twitter at @BlogFuryFC and @OttawaFury, and his podcasts/articles on Ottawa Fury FC for RedNation Online at http://www.rednationonline.ca and https://blogfuryfc.wordpress.com.
You can follow Namu Yoon on Twitter at @BBSC_SeoulBro and @OFFCReview, and his articles on Ottawa Fury FC for Canadian Soccer News at http://www.canadiansoccernews.com and https://offcreview.wordpress.com.