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Marinaro, Pugh named to USL Hall of Fame

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Hector Marinaro in a Canada jersey
Two prominent members of the Canadian soccer scene have been named to the USL Hall of Fame.

Ottawa Fury President John Pugh was selected as a Builder in the USL Women’s Hall of Fame category. And, the best indoor player this country has ever produced, Hector Marinaro, was selected for his goal-filled career in the MISL, a league that is now owned by the USL.

Marinaro is a polarizing figure in Canadian soccer. He was one of four Canadian national-team players who was censured for taking part in a match-fixing scandal at the Merlion Cup in Singapore. Marinaro was later reinstated, but it would take nine years before he would put on the Canadian jersey again. Still, his work on the outdoor grass was always overshadowed by the kind of player he was in the arena.

How good was Marinaro? In 533 indoor games, he scored 1,099 goals. With the Cleveland Crunch, which became the Cleveland Force in 2002, he was simply one of the most dominating indoor players in North America.

The Crunch played most of the 1990s in the MISL’s rival league, the NPSL — the same league that housed the Toronto Shooting Stars, Montreal Impact and Edmonton Drillers. In one 1997 NPSL match, against the Columbus Invaders, Marinaro scored 25 points for the Crunch — a league record at the time. Yes, this was in a league that awarded three-point and two-point goals, but Marinaro’s tally was impressive as the Crunch won the match 52-18. But there is a caveat; the Invaders, which you could make a case for as the worst-ever professional franchise to ever exist in North American pro sport, didn’t have a goalie available that night, and played the match with six attackers and the goalie pulled.

But on a nightly basis throughout the 1990s, Marinaro teamed with linemate Zoran Karic to form the most dynamic indoor-soccer scoring combo the game has ever seen. Marinaro and Karic were to indoor soccer in the ‘90s what Gretzky and Kurri were to hockey in the ‘80s.

Pugh is front and centre as the head of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s plan to bring NASL soccer to the nation’s capital in 2014. But he goes into the USL Hall for his work promoting the women’s game in Canada.

Pugh took over the Ottawa Fury in 2002, which was at the time a W-League franchise. He added different teams to the Fury program, including a PDL side and various feeder and youth squads. Since he took over the women’s program, the Fury have won nine division titles, five conference titles and made four trips to the championship game. The team finally won it all in 2012, when Ottawa hosted the W-League finals.

But, more importantly, the Fury’s developmental record is astonishing, with 85 players earning NCAA scholarships during Pugh’s tenure.

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