After the 2014 season that saw the Ottawa Fury FC compete with the NASL’s best teams but did not get the results they were looking for, including only one victory in their new stadium, changes were afoot for Marc Dos Santos’ squad for 2015. Many, including yours truly, thought an emphasis on improving the attacking side of the ball were surely on the way as the philosophical ideology of the new club had been an attacking/possession oriented style of play. The Fury, last season, only outscored one other NASL team (Atlanta Silverbacks) and at one point in the season went over 400 continuous minutes without scoring a goal, not exactly what an attacking orientated team should have on its resume. In contrast the Fury finished the season with a -4 goal differential, and finished 5th in goals conceded, conceding one less than the eventual Soccer Bowl finalists Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.
Moving toward the start of the 2015 NASL campaign, the Fury have brought in eight new faces to the National Capital. Defensive signings came early and often as the club inked NASL veterans: Mike Randolph (Atlanta), Rafael Alves (Ft. Lauderdale) and Brandon Poltronieri (Atlanta) as well as adding former Charleston Battery (where have you heard that before?) CB Colin Falvey, who actually has a decent goal scoring record with 25 professional goals to his credit. These four newcomers will challenge the four returning defenders: Mason Trafford, Drew Beckie and Ryan Richter for playing time in 2015. Conversely, the Fury added Paulo Junior (forward), Andrew Wiedeman (forward), Patryk Misik (midfield) and Julian de Guzman (midfield) to the roster but don’t look to upgrade the offensive side of the ball over the players they ostensibly replaced in P-R Mayard, Omar Jarun (he did score 2 goals last year), Vini Dantas and Tony Donatelli.
Have the Fury and Marc Dos Santos changed philosophies over the winter, or is this a calculated step in building the foundation of a highly competitive and ultimately a trophy winning team?
A philosophical change would be the result of a) the club’s financial restrictions, or b) the numerous last minute match deciding goals the Fury gave up last year. The Fury have never competed money-wise with the NY Cosmos and Minnesota United’s of the league, but this year has been the first time on record that the club has come out and said it can’t compete with the “big boys”. So what an you do to make a small budget club into a contender? Stay strong at the back, where players are generally cheaper and make your team harder to break down. Stoke City in the EPL have been the leaders of a budget team building a team around defending the ball, not the prettiest of football, but they’ve been in the top flight for seven straight years now, and don’t look to drop anytime soon. By adding more depth at the back Dos Santos hopes to turn those last minute losses and ties in ’14 into points this year. The club hailed the Mike Randolph and Alves signings as improvements to leadership, basically calling out Trafford and Beckie for their lack of leadership and perhaps the scapegoats to the losses to Minnesota U. and San Antonio at Carleton last Spring Season, two of the most notable chokings of the Fury season. Although Dos Santos had coached in the NASL before, it’s certainly not the same league as it was back then. Perhaps in 2014 the decision was made to change the club’s early style and identity to one that could be the most effective for the amount of talent available to this team.
Building a winner in this sport takes time, or money, the Fury don’t have much of the latter so they’re going to depend on time. Romuald Peiser showed late last year that he’s one of the best keepers in the league, but he’s not getting younger, and if you’re Marc Dos Santos you want to maximize his effectiveness on the team by surrounding him with the best defenders you can to provide a formidable barrier between the opponents and the score sheet. This barrier, once established, would give the midfield players, most notably Richie Ryan the ability to play further up the field and use his elite passing skills to maintain possession in the opponents half and set up the offence more reliably. With more defensive pressure taken off the midfield, the wingers will have more opportunity to make runs deeper into the final third of the pitch and to utilize the width of the field more. While the strikers and wingers were not the brightest spot on the roster last year, they are mostly young, and for most of was their fist taste of NASL or even professional soccer. It’s not too much of a stretch that Dos Santos is confident that Oliver, Haworth and a healthy Heinemann can improve this year enough to carry the offensive burden that will require more output this year if they are going to compete for a spot in the NASL Championship or to advance far in the Voyageurs Cup while not sacrificing the attacking orientated possession style the club was built on coming into the league last year.
Either way, it should be an interesting season for the Fury and a full year at TD Place. In a little over two weeks time we will see the end result of the Fury’s offseason and will be able to understand a little more if this was a philosophical change or the building of a young franchise into a winning one.
Blog Smith @BlogFuryFC