Ottawa Fury FC enters the second leg of its Canadian Championship Qualifying Round 3 matchup with HFX Wanderers FC with a one-goal edge, but is taking nothing for granted on home turf. | Photo courtesy Trevor MacMillan / HFX Wanderers FC
OTTAWA – Having earned victory – and picked up three away goals – in the first leg of its Canadian Championship Qualifying Round 3 clash with the Canadian Premier League’s HFX Wanderers FC two weeks ago, Ottawa Fury FC is well positioned to return to the tournament’s Semifinals on Wednesday night at TD Place.
But since the club’s victory this past Saturday in USL Championship action, the focus has been on ensuring there is no complacency when it comes to getting the right result and a matchup with Toronto FC next month.
“Everyone has to understand that if we look at this round as one game, we’ve only really played one half,” said Head Coach Nikola Popovic. “And you don’t win anything in life by only winning the first half. We have to play the second half. We have to be very serious, very responsible. We’ll have to be the best version of ourselves, knowing that we have an advantage [with the 3-2 lead] but still having to play the second part of that game.”
Fury FC continued a solid recent run of form with a 4-0 victory against the Swope Park Rangers at TD Place that kept the side in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff positions. The victory moved Ottawa to 32 goals in 19 contests in the league this season, a total that has already surpassed its 31 goals in the 2018 campaign.
With four players finding the net against the Rangers, the versatility Fury FC has found in its attack once again came to the fore. While the club’s co-leading scorer Mour Samb has been absent from the lineup recently, the rest of the squad has picked up the slack with Wal Fall sitting on seven goals alongside Samb and both Carl Haworth and Christiano Francois sitting on six goals apiece.
As well as the attack has fared this season, Ottawa believes the biggest key to getting past Halifax will be remaining organized defensively. A seventh shutout of the season would guarantee passage to the Semifinals, and after conceding twice on the road against the Wanderers the side is aware of the potential threat the visitors bring.
“It’s massive that we stay organized defensively,” said Fury FC goalkeeper Callum Irving. “Obviously, we have an advantage right now (with the 3-2 lead) so we know that if we do our job defensively, we’ll make it through. We’re all focused on that. We’ll play our game and try to keep it tight at the back.”
Since their loss to Ottawa in the first leg, things haven’t gone so smoothly for the Wanderers. The side has lost three consecutive outings in the Canadian Premier League and is coming off a two-game road trip that sent it to the west coast to play Pacific FC, a contest that saw the hosts take a 3-1 victory.
With Halifax now sitting sixth in the CPL Fall Season standings, though, advancing against Fury FC could be the best chance to call the club’s inaugural season a success. While the side has yet to claim a road victory in league play this season, the Wanderers won’t be underestimated by Ottawa’s players.
“This is very important for us,” said Fury FC defender Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé. “We’re taking this game very seriously. It’s our objective to go through to the next round. We know it’s not over, that we still have to play this game and be at our best. They [Halifax] have some quality, so this game is definitely something we’re taking seriously.”