The Ottawa Fury became the first Canadian club in modern NASL history to take home some silverware as they defeated the Jacksonville Armada 3-1 in northern Florida Wednesday night in the team’s penultimate match of the 2015 regular season.
Things looked sketchy for the Fury in the first half after they went down 1-0 in the 37th minute off a Mechack Jérôme rocket of a free kick from over 35 yards out. The Fury failed to generate much offence in the first half, the exception being a Raphael Alves header off the bar following a Siniša Ubiparipović corner. Service to Fury centre forward Tommy Heinemann was sparse as the team unsuccessfully attempted to exploit the left wing through Oliver.
The breakthrough would come in the second half, as the Fury poured on the class and completely submerged the Armada. Not to be outdone by his centre back counterpart who scored in the first half off a free kick, Raphael Alves surprised the Armada defence by blasting a ball low into the assembled wall, where a deflection switched the trajectory just enough to get beyond a helpless Miguel Gallardo.
The Fury were now in torpedo mode. Only three minutes later, Ubiparipović collected a ball inside the Armada 18-yard box on a pass from Andrew Wiedeman, turned, faked a shot then took out the pitching wedge to loft a ball over Gallardo and into the top corner of the goal. In a season filled with pretty goals, this one is sure make it into the end-of-year highlights package.
Finally, in stoppage time, Wiedeman beat the offside trap with a beautiful run onto a defence-splitting Carl Haworth pass to seal the win, seal the points, and seal the Fall Championship.
Wednesday night’s goals continued a 2015 Fury narrative in which goals came from all corners. The goals from Alves, Ubiparipović and Wiedeman were their fourth, fifth and fourth, respectively. Two assists were earned by Fury players in the match, with Wiedeman and Carl Haworth both picking up their first of the season.
Wednesday’s win widens the gap between Fury FC and the New York Cosmos in the Combined table to five points. A draw in the Fury’s final match in Atlanta one week from Saturday might be enough to secure the Woosnam Cup. The Fury currently hold a 3-goal lead over the Cosmos in goal differential, with New York having two matches left against the San Antonio Scorpions and Tampa Bay Rowdies. It could get tight, but a win for Ottawa over the Silverbacks, or anything but wins by the Cosmos in those two matches would eliminate the math from the equation.
The Fury don’t look likely to drop points in Atlanta. They are currently on an 11-match unbeaten run, and have only lost once since May 9th, a run of 24 matches. That loss came against Minnesota United FC, a club that is a potential Soccer Bowl opponent.
Fury fans will be preparing themselves to host at least one play-off match, with hopes riding high that the 2015 Soccer Bowl will be played in Ottawa. They got a preview last Sunday of how challenging attending a match in frigid weather might be, with near-freezing temperatures forcing everyone to sift through their winter clothes boxes and pull out the toques and parkas. The cold weather was surely the main reason the attendance dipped under 6,000 for the first time since mid-summer, but hopes amongst at least one team representative was that a play-off match, coupled with a heavy marketing push, could draw between 7,500 to 10,000 fans, freezing temperatures or not.
Amidst Wednesday’s post-match champagne-bath celebration, head coach Marc Dos Santos could not be knocked off message, repeating a mantra he has hammered into this team all year: “When we came in (trailing) at half-time, we were calm. The only reason we were so calm was because I keep telling myself: ‘We have the championship DNA!’”. Then, repeatedly pounding a fist into his palm for emphasis, he reiterated: “We have the championship DNA! Well done, guys.”
“Championship DNA.” He said it all season. He said it until everyone believed it. He said until it was true. Ottawa Fury FC, your 2015 Fall Season Champions.
Man of the Match: Siniša Ubiparipović. The Fury midfielder was buzzing about all night, actively contributing to the Fury’s forward thrust while adding a goal to his season total.
Next Match: The Fury will come back home for a bye week before travelling to Atlanta to take on the Silverbacks in their final match of the 2015 regular season. The Armada travel to Edmonton to take on the Eddies in a match with zero playoff implications.