Match Preview | Ottawa Fury FC at Birmingham Legion FC
OTTAWA - Ottawa Fury FC opened the 2019 USL Championship season with a strong showing and will want to add to the positive start of the campaign as it travels to Birmingham, Alabama, to face expansion team Legion FC. With no history to speak of between the two clubs, Fury FC will look to take advantage of the unknown to secure more points on the road this Saturday (KO 8 p.m., OttawaFuryFC.com).
Fury FC opened its 2019 USL Championship season on the road at Charleston Battery, earning a first point thanks to a 1-1 draw. This marked the first time in club history Fury FC captured a point on the road in its opening match of the season.
Overall as a unit, Fury FC increased their number of passes in 90 minutes by 35% in the first match in comparison to its average in 2018, stringing 448 passes in this game (2018: 332.1 / 2017: 357.3). This reflects well on the changes brought in the off-season, not only in roster personnel but also in the application of the desired model of play favoured by Head Coach Nikola Popovic.
Newcomer Charlie Ward had a standout performance in Fury FC's midfield, maintaining a passing success rate of 96.3%, completing 77 of his 80 passes. His 80 passes also place him in fourth place in passing ranking across the USL Championship (leaders at 89).
In their first 90 minutes of play, six different Fury FC players created chances and scoring opportunities, including goalscorer Kevin Oliveira. Christiano François was the leader in shots on goal on the night with three.
Fury FC is entering Week 2 off a 1-1 draw while Birmingham Legion FC is coming off a 2-0 loss to Bethlehem Steel FC.
SCOUTING THE BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC
Birmingham Legion FC made a splash when it announced hometown standout Chandler Hoffman as its first signing midway through last year, and it only added to that since with the appointment of former Major League Soccer Head Coach Tom Soehn and the arrival of other notable names with USL Championship and MLS pedigree as it builds towards its first season in the league.
Joining Hoffman in the Magic City is former New York City FC and San Antonio FC midfielder Mikey Lopez and former Houston Dynamo midfielder Joe Holland, who could make an effective midfield tandem. There's experience in goal from Matt van Oekel, while Daniel Johnson (Chicago Fire) and Femi Hollinger-Janzen (New England Revolution) join Hoffman in the club's attacking corps. The biggest question, as it is for all expansion clubs, is how quickly Soehn will be able to turn this squad into a cohesive unit, a challenge made tougher by the loaded field that on paper makes up the Eastern Conference this season. (via USL Championship)
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Head Coach Nikola Popovic
On his squad selection... "More or less [the same]. I think we'll need to make some changes. We have to be careful [with players' health] because it's a long season however I think more or less we'll have the same team."
On the team's progress... "We were satisfied with our performance in Charleston. If you had told me before the game we would get a draw, I would have said it's fantastic, one point in Charleston, who fields one of the best teams in the league. But after the game, I think we all wanted more. We have to ambition to get the three points [this week]."
Defender Dakota Barnathan
On being back to full health... "To be back playing with the team it always feels great. Being part of it is the best feeling. Just being back on the field in the flow of things is a pretty wonderful feeling."
On how the team looks... "I think it was good for me to come in, take a little bit of seat on the side, watch the things unfold, this being a new team for me this year. I think we're in a good spot. We got a point on the road in Charleston, which is a pretty historic point for the organization, and to go from here we just need to continue to dominate, enforce our will on the team, play our style, our type of culture, and we'll be fine."
HOW TO WATCH
LIVE STREAM: OttawaFuryFC.com
TWITTER: Follow @OTTAWAFURYFC for LIVE updates #BHMvOTT #ForTheFury
VIEWING PARTY: ByTown Boys SC hosting a viewing party at The Senate Tavern (1156 Bank St), all are welcome
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