The Ottawa Fury will play their final home game of the regular season against the San Antonio Scorpions on Sunday afternoon for Fan Appreciation Day at Landsowne Park Stadium. With three matches remaining, the Fury will be hoping to secure three points on their way to assuring at least one more home date for its supporters.
The Fury currently hold a three-point advantage over second-place Minnesota United FC in the Fall season table. The winner of the Fall season is guaranteed a home date in The Championship’s semi-final. Fury head coach Marc Dos Santos confirmed on Thursday that captain Richie Ryan would miss his second straight match with a muscle injury. “We’ll have to manage him well until the semi-final game. For sure he’s out against San Antonio and is doubtful for the (Wednesday) match against Jacksonville.” The Fury is also unlikely to start leading scorer Tommy Heinemann on Sunday, but Dos Santos indicated that he would be on the bench and available as a substitute.
With Ryan out, the pressure falls to Canadian international Julian de Guzman to be the midfield general. Dos Santos points to the Tampa match, in which the Rowdies earned a draw on a late goal, to illustrate the importance of Captain Canada: “I felt that the 80 minutes that he was on the field he was very important, and as soon as he came out of the match we started losing the midfield, started losing possession. We need a guy like Julian on the pitch, especially with Ryan out.”
Despite the Scorpions troubles in 2015, in which they struggled to separate themselves from the foot of the table, Dos Santos isn’t taking his opponent lightly: “In their last game they won at Indy, so they’ve gotten a little burst of belief. If they win here, they’re back in the race with two games left and they have that hope still.” Dos Santos went on to give his assessment of the Scorpions troubles: “They were never a capital “T” team this season, just a bunch of very talented guys. Media and fans look at the standings but don’t know enough about the teams, but we study every opponent. What the standings show is not related to the quality they have.”
Dos Santos will have some extra options at his disposal on Sunday, as Mauro Eustaquio and Jérémy-Gagnon Laparé join the team after having spent the last few weeks in the United States with Canada’s U-23 Olympic qualifying team (the team finished fourth in the eight-nation tournament). Gagnon-Laparé, a player acquired on loan from the Montreal Impact, will likely see action as a defensive midfielder sometime in the last month of this 2015 campaign. Dos Santos spoke about that prospect, and the qualities the player can bring to the squad: “We think he can play the role we want him to play and he’s an intelligent player that will understand things fast. It’s tough for him to come in and play right away – everybody knows that and it’s not going to happen.”
Eustaquio was very effective playing in Canada’s midfield and it was clear by his comments this week that he relished the opportunity to play for the U-23 squad: “It’s a great honour to be back with the national team. It was a great experience, although we didn’t manage to qualify for the Olympics, and it was great to be coached by (Canada senior men’s team coach) Benito (Floro).” Asked if he saw himself graduating to the senior Canadian men’s squad, he was hopeful: “I’ve never hid that as one of my goals. I’ve been part of the Canadian youth system since the U-20’s, now being a part of the U-23’s, the next step is the senior team. That’s my dream and it’s the obvious next step.” Although the experience was a good one, Eustaquio is now fully focused on helping the Fury and the challenges that lie ahead: “We have big things here to do. There’s a bunch of teams that could win it: New York’s in there, Minnesota’s in there, we’re in there. We just have to do our jobs and the guys know what that means.”
It will be a chilly day for a Fury match on Sunday, with temperatures forecast to be dipping to single digits on the Celsius scale. It’s not out of the question that we could see snow in Ottawa over the course of the match, which could be an advantage for the Fury players who have trained in this weather all week. Expect to see long sleeves and gloves from the San Antonio players, who will surely be shocked coming in from southern Texas to this frigid weather.
Hot chocolate and soccer: a Canadian tradition dating back to the time of Samuel de Champlain and the local Algonquin tribes. Make your way to the stadium for the 3pm start for what could be your last chance to see the Fury in person in 2015.