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Ottawa Fury books spot in W-League final

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John Pugh has been waiting a long time for a USL championship. His Ottawa Fury has been a member of the United Soccer Leagues W-League for 12 years, and in all 12 of those it has been dominant.

The Fury has posted a 126-25-16 regular-season record over that time, but come up short in three previous W-League championship games.

Following its 1-0 win over D.C. United Friday night at the Algonquin College Soccer Complex, the Fury will be playing in its fourth title game Sunday afternoon as it tries to tackle the Pali Blues.

“Perhaps we can bring home the North American championship, finally. Fourth time lucky,” was Pugh’s reaction immediately after Lydia Hastings’ goal in the 44th minute held up to give the Fury its semifinal victory.

The Fury will be facing the Blues, who were 2-0 winners over the Quebec City Amiral in the first semifinal game.

“It’s great to win, it’s great to win in front of our fans and it’s great to be back in the final,” Fury coach Dom Oliveri said.

“We don’t know too much about (Pali) right now. We didn’t do too much advanced scouting on them. We really just wanted to focus on D.C., but that will be my night tonight and we’ll get to know them.”

Focusing on D.C. United Women was a good move has the Fury defence held a strong United Women offence in check. Mikaela Howell, who led the team in scoring during the regular season with nine goals, barely got a sniff.

Lianne Sanderson was second with six goals but her best play of the game was a header she used to knock the ball away from entering her own goal off a strike from Fury midfielder Katrina Gorry in the first half.

“They’re a great team. All credit to the girls. They executed to our tactics really well and they played a good game,” Oliveri said.

The Fury had at least three great scoring chances in the opening half, but it was its last that finally broke the deadlock.

Leni Kaurin sent a terrific cross into the box which Hastings got a head on but unfortunately it struck the crossbar. Fortunately, it came down right on her foot and she tapped it in past ‘keeper Didi Haracic.

“We were trying to take it one step at a time,” Jasmine Phillips said following her sixth clean sheet of the season. “You can’t get to the final without this game and I think this was a really good step for us.”

Jen Skogerboe received a yellow card in the 79th minute as she hauled down Fury forward Mallory Outerbridge, but you might say no harm no foul as the Fury were unable to take advantage of a free kick and get some insurance.

In the end it wasn’t needed as the home crowd carried the club through the final 11 minutes plus three of extra time.

“It should be an absolutely super game on Sunday and I hope every soccer lover comes out to cheer us home,” Pugh said.

No one will be cheering louder than him.

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