Ottawa Fury FC joins Indy Eleven as the one of the expansion clubs for the 2014 NASL season, marking the second Canadian team in the league. Ottawa has a recent history of soccer above the border, as the Fury were previously a USL Premier Development League team. The Fury will now play in the second tier of US Soccer and compete for the Soccer Bowl trophy.
Ottawa, like Indy, has had a nice go of it in the months and years leading up to their debut this season. Their front office has put together a solid coaching staff led by head coach, Marc Dos Santos who in turn has put together his squad leading up to the start of the season. Ottawa also announced that they would be paying their home games (sans the 2014 Spring Season) in the newly renovated TD Place Stadium in Lansdowne Park. When finished, the stadium will be considered among the nicest in the NASL and will make for a good atmosphere for both the home and away sides.
Like FC Edmonton, the Fury are somewhat hindered in their search for players for 2014. With an international players cap, Ottawa’s roster is built up of mainly Canadians and a few internationals. It’s a hindrance because the club is dictated to pursue a smaller pool of players from their home country that are talented enough to play at this level. That isn’t a knock on Canadian players, but more of a knock on the system. Despite the fine print, Dos Santos has built a decent squad together for the upcoming campaign littered with NASL and MLS vets as well as hungry youth players.
There are two storylines that come to mind. The first being the obvious – Can Ottawa be competitive right out of the gates in their first season? Why not? San Antonio did it in 2012, and Indy Eleven have shown promise to do it this preseason so why not Ottawa? The parity in this league is real, making it easier for expansion teams to come in and play well, but it remains to be seen if Ottawa can do it themselves. The second storyline is – Will a fun NASL Canadian rivalry ensue between Ottawa and FC Edmonton? God, I hope so and I hope they call it the poutine rivalry.
Tom Heinemann– Heinemann has NASL and MLS experience, and was once a very prolific goal scorer while with the St. Louis Lions of the USL PDL. He scored 35 goals in 36 games while with the Lions, but has since only scored 19 in 97 appearances over the course of four years. Heinemann has the potential to be a good goal scorer in the NASL, and he will try to show that form in Canada this season.
Nicholas Paterson– Paterson has been one of the better players in USL Pro from 2011 to 2013, scoring 25 goals in 78 appearances from midfield for the Charleston Battery. Paterson’s creativity will be a huge boost to Ottawa in their search for goal-scoring chances in 2014. The Scottish international should be a worthwhile occupant of one of the club’s international roster spots.
Richie Ryan – Ryan is an Irish footballer who plays as a midfielder. He has some Premier League experience (making two substitutions with Sunderland in 2003) but he made a name for himself while playing in Ireland. From 2008 to 2011 he made 111 appearances with the Sligo Rovers in Ireland’s Premier League. He scored five goals over his time with Rovers and was named as the PFAI Player of the Year in 2010.
Potential Wild Card Player
Hamza Elias – Elias is a 20-year old player from Ghana that has spent his playing career in the first division of his home country. He makes the move to Ottawa for the 2014 season as a bit of an unknown. Elias has been called up to the U-17 national team for Ghana and recently made his preseason debut for Ottawa. If he gets his playing time, it will be interesting to see what Elias can do.
I think Marc Dos Santos will eventually do well in the NASL, so I am calling coaching a strength for the Fury. Dos Santos has previous experience with the Montreal Impact and he was also the Technical Director for Deportivo Brasil. With the leadership of Dos Santos, and the mystery of being an unknown, unscouted expansion side, the Fury could use their strengths to surprise some people in 2014.
Most Glaring Weakness
It is a relatively young team and it is difficult for a new side to immediately gel together. It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up and plays together, but Fury fans should be patient in the coming months. Being familiar with each other and the league is an important part of the season, and Ottawa may just be a bit behind on that simply due to their role as one of two expansion teams in the NASL. I haven’t seen them play enough to point out any weaknesses on the field.
Ottawa have plenty of reason for optimism in 2014, but also plenty of reason for concern. This is a new team that will need to find its rhythm in a rough and tough league like the NASL. The parity throughout the standings and the fact that anybody can beat anybody on any day will play well into the hands of Ottawa, but the Canadian club will need to put themselves in a position to properly capitalize.
With a talented midfield, players with MLS and NASL experience and a hungry head coach, the Fury are at least set up to have a chance at a quick start right out of the gates, but we will see whether or not that comes to fruition. The club has had a lot of success off the field in recent months, so it will be fun to see if that translates to the pitch. With any expansion team, not a lot is know about the club, so most NASL fans will have to wait to pass judgment on the Fury.
I did as much (bad) research as I could on the Fury to try and properly predict (guess) where they will finish in 2014. I don’t see them doing enough to really challenge for a spot in the postseason, but like Indy, a successful season for them means good attendance records and public exposure. Just because they may not make the Championship tournament doesn’t mean 2014 can’t be a success. For Ottawa, 2014 is a chance to show the NASL what they are all about, and I, like others, am excited to see what they bring.
(image courtesy of Chris Hofley/Ottawa Sun)