In what was labeled a test of character, Fury FC did not disappoint, holding a fully rostered Nashville SC side to a 1-1 draw on Friday afternoon. With a limited number of substitutions available, Popovic’s men fought for 90 minutes, under the scorching mid-afternoon sun, buoyed by Carl Haworth’s early tying goal.
Action got underway quickly, and Ottawa faced adversity early on when Nashville SC was awarded a kick from the penalty mark following a hard tackle by Falvey that took down former Fury FC player Tucker Hume in the penalty area. Alan Winn would convert and put his club up 1-0 in the second minute of play.
Not to be overshadowed, Ottawa responded mere minutes later, orchestrating a coordinated attack built from the back line, on a perfect ball from centre-back Sergio Manesio to the feet of a running Carl Haworth, who only needed an expertly placed flick to level the score 1-1.
From that point on, Ottawa settled in their new model of play, winning and maintaining more of the possession. And while intensity kept rising, much to the delight of the Stony Monday Riot fan in attendance, neither side were able to break the tie as the teams went back to the locker rooms after the first half.
Fury FC came out of halftime kicking, and came close to taking the lead on an expert cross from Haworth directed towards Sito who had outran his defender but couldn’t get it passed Nashville keeper’s extended arms.
Head Coach Popovic had warned his players: this would be a true test of their character grit. Playing a full 90 minutes, on a full sized pitch, under the Florida sun, would not be something they were technically fully ready for. But much like with all the changes they had been presented with since the start of the season, the Fury boys left it all on the field, pushing past their breaking point.
Left with only one field player and one goalkeeper substitute available, Popovic opted to divide playing time between his two keepers, having returning Callum Irving start the match and sending latest singing David Monsalve in for the second half. Jimmy Sanon also went on to offer some reprieve, relieving Sito in the 62nd minute.
An exhausted Ottawa side kept Nashville off the scorecard for the reminder of the game, sending a clear message throughout the league that they would not let their opponents outlast them.
Ottawa Fury FC will play three more exhibition games in preparation for the start of its 2018 season, which begins March 17 in Charlotte against the Independence. For the full schedule and ticket information, visit OttawaFuryFC.com.
Head Coach Nikola Popovic
“I think today we showed some flashes of what you’re going to see. More than anything, I think they showed great character.”
Forward Carl Haworth
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves today, in terms of character. The odds were stacked against us [small roster, injuries] so to come into a game like this, in the heat, against a very good opposition, the end result speaks volume about the character of the squad.”
On his goal… “It’s something we’ve worked on in training quite a bit. A run in behind the centre-back there, we know there will be space there, and Sergio [Manesio] played a perfect ball so credit to him. I got a good touch, and from there, I was one on one with the keeper, just had to pick the corner.”
Midfielder Jamar Dixon
“The team character was unbelievable. That’s the foundation right there. Some of the things we worked on the past two, three weeks, we tried, we can obviously get better, but in a first game against quality opposition, I thought we did very well. They [Nashville] put on a fresh lineup [in the second half] and we still kept going; if we build on that, it’s a bright future.”
On his physical play… “I don’t like other people or opposition trying to bully our team. We’re one, and have to work together, and be together at all times. We just have to keep working, support each other and help each other as best we can.”
Ottawa Fury FC (4-3-3)
Irving; Obasi, Falvey, Manesio, Porter; Bruna, Dixon, Oliveira; Sito (Sanon 62’), Dos Santos, Haworth.
2’ NAS – Winn (PK)
10’ OTT – Haworth (Manesio)