Home NASL & USL Ottawa Fury Well-rested Fury advances to Soccer Bowl; but there’s still a what-if feel to the final

Well-rested Fury advances to Soccer Bowl; but there’s still a what-if feel to the final

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The short-term gain was clear.

The Ottawa Fury was better equipped to last through 120 minutes (plus added time) of soccer, outlasting Minnesota United FC 2-1 in an epic NASL semifinal. Tom Heinemann, after taking an early yellow card, got the equalizer right after halftime, then stroked home the winner in the second half of stoppage time. Romuald Peiser, the NASL’s best keeper, made a couple of wonderful stops to preserve the lead.

Think back the last week of the regular season; Fury coach Marc Dos Santos surprised a lot of people by deciding to rest many of the regulars at his disposal. The Fury had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Atlanta in the final game of the season, which cost the team the No. 1 seed. That seed went to the New York Cosmos.

It’s easy to argue that, so far, it’s worked out for Ottawa. The team was rested and was ready to handle the rigours of a playoff game that lasted well past 90 minutes.

But, it’s got to pain people in Ottawa — and at NASL offices — that the final won’t be held in Ottawa. The semifinal at TD Place set a league record for post-season attendance, with 9,346 fans coming out. Had Ottawa hosted the final, the 10,000-tickets-sold mark would easily have been eclipsed.

It’s also a lot cheaper to host league events in Ottawa than in New York; our weak loonie helps. In New York, despite Raul and Marcos Senna and another top-of-the-table season, empty seats have been the topic of discussion. Sure, there are many excuses and conspiracy theories about Cosmos attendance to fuel an entire History Channel miniseries; that it’s too difficult to get either out of Hofstra University or Coney Island, that another league has tried its best to bully the Cosmos. But, none of these arguments change the fact that we’re expecting to see a Soccer Bowl final in a stadium with lots of empty seats. It will be a game met with a lot of indifference in a crowded New York sports market.

The Cosmos drew just 5,061 to Coney Island for its semifinal win; that’s just a little more than half of what the Fury drew to TD Place.

A game in Ottawa would have been front-page news, especially with the RedBlacks not playing next week because they earned a bye to the second round of the CFL playoffs.

As well, playing the Soccer Bowl at home would have saved the Fury tens of thousands worth of travel costs. Last time I checked, New York, even out in the ‘burbs, doesn’t offer the best in hotel deals.

Sure, I understand that Atlanta fans will feel that this column disrespects the Silverbacks. There’s no guarantee that Ottawa would have bagged three points if Dos Santos went with his “A” lineup in the final game of the regular season. For sure, suggesting three points would have been automatic is not fair to Atlanta coach Gary Smith and his crew. But, the point is, shouldn’t the Fury have fielded the best possible to lineup to go for that possible three points – and the No. 1 seed?

And, had Ottawa got the No. 1 seed, it would have faced the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. I’ve already sorta offended Atlanta fans, so now I’ll tick off another set of supporters in this league. The Strikers aren’t Minnesota United. There’s a big gulf between the No 3 and No. 4 seeds in NASL. The Strikers lost to New York yesterday and they would have been longshots in the Ottawa cold. So, I’d feel pretty good that the Fury would also have advanced had it played the Strikers rather than Minnesota.

I’m sure there will be a reader or two who will note that, in the past, I’ve suggested that winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield is pointless. So why the change in heart when it comes to finishing first in NASL?

Well, statistics show that Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup winners are rare — it has only happened twice since 2003. And that’s because, through most of the conference playoffs, the series are determined through home-and-away aggregate series. The lower seed gets a home game, the higher seeds get a home game. History has shown us that it really even things out.

In the NASL playoffs, it’s a one-and-done scenario. There are no aggregate series. So, the ability to snatch a top seed and manage your match-ups and claim home field advantage is huge.

And, after the Soccer Bowl, we’ll fully be able to determine if Ottawa not going for the No. 1 seed will end up being a minor footnote to the season, or a major story.

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9 Comments

  1. jamonty42

    November 9, 2015 at 1:16 am

    What happens next weekend for JDG? I have to think his club team gets priority over the CanMNT… Based on where he was in February this must be a dream, especially at this point in his career.
    I think Floro will survive on the field without him, but will they also in the locker room?

    Reply

    • Kent

      November 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      The CMNT takes priority. It’s a FIFA window next weekend, which means his club is obligated to let him go to national team duty.

      Reply

  2. Michael G

    November 8, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    To cwell De Guzman was subbed at the start of the 2nd half of extra time so he actually played 105 mins not 70. Ottawa made their subs in the 85th, 96th and 105th mins. I should know I was at the 4th officials table.

    Reply

    • cwell

      November 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      You’re right. It must have been around the 70th minute when I started thinking that JDG seemed to be running out of gas. Perhaps that was when he last man back to cover a counter-attack. To his credit, he managed to get in position to cause the man on the ball to pull up rather than drive to the end line. At any rate, I’m glad that Mauro replaced him for the extra frame.

      Reply

      • jamonty42

        November 11, 2015 at 11:28 am

        JDG may have been running low but he had a ton of touches. In extra time many of the balls went via him in the midfield. I think he will be sorely missed in NYC. http://www.rednationonline.ca/Articles2016/DeGuzmanWinningathomekeyforCanada.aspx

        Reply

        • cwell

          November 11, 2015 at 12:03 pm

          JDG did a great job. He’s a pleasure to watch, and one can well understand why Floro has him on the WC team. The problem is that he lacks the speed needed to track attacking players — he tries mightily and he knows how to aim to get in position to defend rather than aiming at the player with the ball — but nevertheless he can be a liability against fast opponents.

          Reply

  3. cwell

    November 8, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Ah, well. It was a lovely evening – cool, but no damn wind – the crowd was in to the game, at last – this is the first game when spectators seemed to know or care what was happening on the field – it was an attractive game, with lots of chances and great saves – and the home team won: what else could you ask for?

    Three players key to the Fury’s win tonight were Ryan, De Guzman and Ubiparipovic, all three of whom left home to rest up last week. They might have helped earn a win in Atlanta, but they would not have had the legs to play as they did against Minnesota; in fact, JDG barely lasted until being subbed in about the 70th minute. (Nevertheless, he’s a treat to watch, and must have been a hell of player in Spain.)

    Wherever NASL teams play, I can’t help but wonder how they manage to pay the bills. Travel costs alone must eat up whatever is earned through what must be meager sale of tickets, paraphernalia and advertising. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if several teams fold, leaving the Ottawa Fury with a successful franchise and no league to play in.

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      November 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      With the weak dollar, it’s not unusual for FC Edmonton to spend $40,000 on a single-game road trip to the southeast. The travel costs keep rising significantly. Think about it; for an NASL team to spend that much money on the road, it’s the same kind of costs as having to sign 10 or 11 more players to the roster.

      Reply

    • reidjr

      November 10, 2015 at 4:45 am

      If the league was to fold Ottawa very likely would move to Usl.

      Reply

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