GATINEAU, QUÉBEC — In a training session that no one will remember in a few weeks, the Ottawa Fury played its Academy side to a 0-0 draw in a series of six 11-minute scrimmages today at Complexe Brancheau-Brière in Gatineau, Québec.
The Fury began the exercise by putting out what one could surmise is the provisional starting XI (minus Paulo Junior and Onua Obasi who are still not in camp). They lined up like this:
The Academy never threatened Romuald Peiser or the central defensive pairing of Ferrnando Timbo and Rafael Alves (Alvimbo?) so no impressions can be garnered from their defensive play. One thing to note is that when the Fury had the ball, the two were stationed on the offensive side of the centre line, true to what head coach Paul Dalglish has been touting ever since he was brought on board.
Wing play is where the Fury really shone today, particularly on the right side with Kyle Porter overlapping with James Bailey and Dennis Chin. Porter (with the red carpet laid out by the Acacemy defence, it must be said), spent most of his time on the pitch in the offensive right part of the field, beautifully driving crosses into the 18-yard box. If the Fury can work out who is supposed to get on the end of those balls, we will know where some of the offensive threat will originate.
For now, however, no real threat was evident save for James Bailey’s cultured right foot. Twice the Englishman took a shot from distance that ricocheted off the crossbar. A few inches lower and he had himself a brace. Bailey also impressed with his control and decision-making, laying out some beautiful passes to teammates in stride.
Other than that, the chances were scarce. Julian de Guzman forced a save from the Academy keeper with a laser-like shot, but none of the forward three ever looked comfortable. Dennis Chin has the speed to beat most NASL defenders, but his ball control remains in pre-season form. Trialist Miles Byass, a DC native who most recently played for JIPPO of the Finnish third division, made some good runs but none incisive enough to threaten goal.
Gerardo Bruna, the former Real Madrid and Liverpool academy player, looked comfortable on the ball but not in his positioning. Played as a false nine, he was unable to generate any chances with his smooth movement. He may be a more of natural attacking midfielder – but the first “match” of the pre-season is no place to make definite assertions.
After three of the mini-matches were complete the first team was completely subbed out to make way for another set of XI, players who may be on the fringes of the starting lineup. This is how they lined up:
*Note: I may have Addai and Conte wrong
In the “second half” of the contest, what stood out was the interplay between Jonny Steele and Brandon Poltronieri on the left side. Although they had some success circumventing the Academy defence with their sharp overlapping and constant communication, this at times boiled over into frustration. This is to be expected as the two learn to anticipate each other’s tendencies, but is something to look for as their relationship develops.
Lance Rozeboom looked solid in defensive midfield, stripping the ball from the Academy players and picking out the right passes. Prince Edward Island native Mozzi Gyorio also looked capable as an attacking midfielder.
The two players who impressed most were Academy players lined up on the senior side of the squad, Dario Conte and Emad Houache. Conte was supremely confident for his age in dribbling the ball up the field and even taking a few cracks at goal. Houache, for his part, kept making the incisive runs that were missing in the “first half”, and although he came close a few times, failed to disturb the netting.
The fact that the senior team failed to score against their Academy colleagues could be cause for concern, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. The vast majority of the senior team have never played together before this week. All in all, the squad looked like, well, a squad. The passing was already clicking, and position-wise everyone but the forwards looked comfortable in Dalglish’s system.
The Fury’s next test will come Friday in Toronto against TFC II. The squad will then head to Arizona where they will take on NASL expansion cousins (and serial Fury poachers) Indy Eleven, followed by a match against Real Salt Lake’s academy.
According to Fury officials, none of these matches are slated to be streamed online.