Fury Release – It has been years in the making, but at long last professional soccer kicks off for Ottawa Fury FC in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday evening against one of the most storied franchise in the history of the North American Soccer League (NASL).
Addressing his players earlier in the week, Head Coach Marc Dos Sanots said “we might be an expansion team, but we are not expansion players.” As a team, Fury FC are new to their opposition, but to a man opposing coaches and players are familiar with several names – especially those who have played on the North American stage. While some of the international talents maybe unknown, their resume’s showcase the experience and talents they bring to the squad.
Captained by Clonmel, Ireland native Richie Ryan, Fury FC boast experience and depth in both leadership and ability. Alternate captains Nicki Paterson and Omar Jarun both carry with them USL PRO experience while Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Tom Heinemann bring their fair share of MLS and NASL experience to Ottawa. Fury FC will however go without the services of Heinemann who is day-to-day with an ankle injury.
A trio of Brazilians should prove invaluable to Dos Santos’ squad. Forward Oliver Minatel might be 22 years of age, but brings with him a wealth of experience and along with fellow countryman Vini Dantas should help shoulder the offensive expectations that have been placed on target-man Tom Heinemann. The third Brazilian threat who will spend time at both ends of the pitch is left back Maykon. He helped AEL Limassol capture the Cypriot First Division Championship which provided the Brazilian defender with UEFA Champions League experience. Another international who will make his NASL debut this season is Ghanaian midfielder Hamza Elias – a quick and dynamic player, Elias adds depth to an already deep position in Ottawa’s line-up.
Devala Gorrick is expected to take the lead in goal for Fury FC, but has healthy competition in Marcel DeBellis and Chad Bush pushing him on a daily basis. Gorrick came to Ottawa after spending the 2013 season with IK Frej in Sweden following three standout seasons in the Thai Premier League. In front of him expect to see Mason Trafford line-up next to Jarun at center back with former Columbus Crew draft pick Drew Beckie arming the right back position and Maykon on the left.
The position where Ottawa has ample experience is their coaching staff led by Marc Dos Santos. A man who is no stranger to this League knows his opposition and what it takes to win at this level. Sprinkle in the experience of his assistant Martin Nash who had a storied career at this level and the successes that goalkeeper coach David Bellemare has on his resume and this All-Canadian coaching staff should prove a valuable resource for the players.
Like many teams in the NASL, the Strikers made many changes during the off-season. Günter Kronsteiner’s side has 14 players returning for the 2014 campaign that includes imposing center back Sefan Antonijevic and midfielder Martin Nuñez who led the Strikers in scoring in 2013.
Kronsteiner took over mere weeks before the start of the Fall Season last year improving the Strikers side after a dismal Spring Season. Over the off-season, the Austrian native turned to Europe for two key additions with a wealth of Bundesliga experience in goalkeeper Oka Nikolov who spent nearly 20 years at Eintract Frankfurt and forward Marius Ebbers who made a name for himself at FC St. Pauli. The experience of this duo plus the addition of midfielder Chris Nurse from FC Edmonton see’s the Strikers a much different side from last season with this added depth and experience.
With the NASL split-season format and an early break in the season avoiding matches during the FIFA World Cup, the 9-game Spring Season should make for a competitive one. The winner of the Spring Season is guaranteed a spot in the 4-team Championship and earning home-field advantage for at least the semifinals.
It will be a furious start to the season for Fury FC who will play six games in the opening 21 days of the season including a home-and-home series against FC Edmonton in the preliminary round of the Amway Canadian Championship. Expect the depth of Dos Santos’ squad to be tested during the opening three weeks of the season.
After Saturday’s season opener in Fort Lauderdale, Fury FC will return home to prepare for the arrival of professional soccer in the Nation’s Capital when Ottawa hosts Minnesota United FC in their home opener on April 19th. Carleton University is almost sold out for next Saturday’s home opener – for tickets call613.232.6767 or visit OttawaFuryFC.com