Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1 at Ottawa Fury FC 1 (NASL) - May 10, 2014

I've often described my hometown of Ottawa as the worst sports city in North America, mainly because of all the teams that have moved away or gone bankrupt. Two CFL franchises have disappeared, while the AAA Lynx only lasted 15 seasons before heading to Lehigh Valley, where fans appreciate affordable entertainment. Even independent baseball failed here, and efforts to move a AA team to the now empty stadium were for naught. For the past couple of years, only the Senators offered professional sports to the masses, but that is finally changing this summer. Most notably, the CFL is making its third foray into the city with the Ottawa RedBlacks taking over a completely renovated Lansdowne Park (now known as TD Place Stadium) starting next month. Less well known to even locals is that the stadium will have another pro tenant, the Ottawa Fury FC, who have begun play in the NASL this season.

With the finishing touches yet to be completed on TD Place though, the Fury are playing the spring season at Keith Harris Stadium at Carleton University (above). They happened to have a game on Saturday evening against the Tampa Bay Rowdies when I was visiting family, so I headed out to Carleton with my friends Sharpy and Sean to add another venue to my list.

Tickets were $27 (unless you got a freebie like Sean), a hefty price to pay for a bench seat at a minor league soccer game but that didn't stop 2,164 fans from showing up. The weather was perfect to be outdoors for a few hours and the teams put together an entertaining first half. After both teams traded early chances, Ottawa was awarded a penalty in the 24th minute when Rowdie defender Frankie Sanfilippo blocked a shot with his hand while in the area. Brazilian Oliver Minatel (who goes by his first name only and was selected as the league's player of the week two weeks prior) took the kick but it was saved by Matt Pickens (below). Pickens played 116 games with the Colorado Rapids in MLS and led them to the MLS Cup in 2010, so the NASL is not just filled with young hopefuls.

Three minutes later, Tampa Bay received their own penalty when Omar Jarun pulled down Rowdies striker Lucky Mkosana. Bulgarian Georgi Hristov (#10 below) took the shot and made no mistake, slotting home past Devala Gorick to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.

Just three minutes after that, the Fury scored off a corner when Tony Donatelli headed home at the far post after Pickens fell down. It appeared that Pickens might have been interfered with by another Ottawa player and he was certainly indignant, screaming at the referee to no avail. With the game tied 1-1 and both teams playing a wide-open attacking style, more goals were expected, but in the end none arrived as the second half was mostly sloppy play. Just five minutes from full time, Fury defender Ramon Soria received the final touch of a perfect give-and-go and found himself alone on Pickens, only to have the keeper make a magnificent diving save to preserve the point.

Sharpy was not impressed with Soria's effort as he had predicted a 2-1 Fury win in our pre-game pool. Sean had forecast 2-1 for the visitors, while I took the 1-1 score to win the pool, enjoying a couple of free beers after the game,at the Lone Star in the Byward Market, a very nice way to end a short visit to Ottawa.



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