Fury FC Earns First Win, First Clean Sheet of 2019 in Birmingham
OTTAWA - Ottawa Fury FC opened the 2019 USL Championship season with a strong showing in Charleston and wanted to add to the positive start of the campaign as it travelled to Birmingham, Alabama, to face expansion team Legion FC on Saturday night. Fury FC handled the pressure all night long, earning its first win (1-0), and first clean sheet, of the 2019 season.
For a second match, Ottawa opened the score, this time on a clinical left-footed strike from Carl Haworth, placing the visitors on top 1-0 through 45 minutes of play. Birmingham came close to tying it up in the 83rd minute but the ball was cleared off the Ottawa goal line by Meilleur-Giguère, securing the win for Fury FC.
Head Coach Popovic, as expected, made a couple changes to his starting formation, inserting Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé in at left back, and newcomer Dakota Barnathan as a centre back. This marked the first start of the year for both of them. Loanee Robert Boskovic also got his first appearance in Fury FC colours as he was substituted on in the final minutes of the game.
Fury FC started this match on the front foot, maintaining ball possession in the Legion's half for most of the opening 15 minutes. Ultimately, the ball possession numbers would balance out despite Fury FC showing some purposeful, physical play.
With his first goal this season, his 19th in career across competition, Haworth becomes the club's all-time goal scoring leader (previously held by Steevan Dos Santos).
Fury FC's defence stood tall once more, limiting Legion FC's opportunities in their half, and keeping them at bay. Thomas Meilleur-Giguère was solid amongst them with 11 clearances, 3 interceptions and 3 blocks, including the spectacular goal cleared off the line late in the game.
In 2018, Fury FC was 0-0-2 in its first two matches of the season, allowing nine goals and scoring once. This season, Ottawa has put together a much-improved start to its campaign, reaching a record of 1-1-0, scoring two goals and conceding only one. This also marks the club's best season start in franchise history.
Head Coach Nikola Popovic
On the overall performance... "It was a very good performance. We were able to control the game almost all of the first half and big parts of the second half. We had chances to score one or two more goals but we didn't finish the game. Towards the end, the game became one of transition, too direct, but we brought the three points home."
On the character the team showed... "We have a very strong culture that we have built last year and I think we are showing now a team with a very good character, a team who will fight until the end even in difficult situations and against good teams. The best way to describe the boys that played tonight is a team with a very big heart and great character."
On what's next... "We have to focus on our model of play. We have to be more consistent in all of the actions and all of the moments, but it is a step by step process. We are climbing the ladder: we're going up slowly, and with time, we will get even better. We have to be pleased with the early results, knowing that we can go much, much farther."
Download match photos (credit: Birmingham Legion FC / USL Championship)
Watch match highlights | Review match statistics
Ottawa Fury FC (4-3-3): Monsalve; Gagnon-Laparé, Barnathan, Meilleur-Giguère, Dixon; Fall (56' Thiago), Ward, Mannella; Haworth ©, Oliveira (90+2' Boskovic), François
Birmingham Legion FC (4-3-3): Van Oekel; Culbertson, Turner, Fisher, Avila; Kobayashi (64' Kasim), Lopez © (84' Holland), Herivaux; Femi (59' Wright), Hoffman, Johnson
16' - OTT Haworth (Fall)
38' - BHM Lopez
78' - BHM Culbertson
79' - OTT Haworth
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