When Canada’s original squad for its international exhibition in South Korea earlier this month was announced, the name of Ottawa Fury FC’s Carl Haworth wasn’t listed alongside teammates Jamar Dixon and Maxime Tissot.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t a glimmer of hope for the Canadian forward.
“I was told earlier on in the week before they left for camp that I was on a standby list,” Haworth said recently, “so I was just on edge waiting to hear.”
Two days later, the call came. A week later, the Fury FC Player of the Year was making his full international debut in front of 18,920 fans at Cheonan Stadium.
“Getting called in and to get out on the pitch as well was an amazing experience and one that I’ll remember for a while,” said Haworth. “To have my debut be not against a lower level of competition but against a team that’s been to the semifinal of a World Cup was amazing.”
Haworth’s journey to the international stage was one that almost didn’t happen. Coming off a PDL Championship with FC London in 2012 in a memorable final against the Carolina Dynamo that saw the Canadian squad rally to earn victory in overtime, Haworth looked to make a run at the professional ranks. Things didn’t go quite as he had hoped.
“I went on a couple of trials, things weren’t working out, and I was at the point where I was like, ‘do I get a real job now, or do I give it one last push?’” he said. “Luckily enough for me it was the PDL coaches in Ottawa at the time who convinced me to come to Ottawa. They said they’re getting a pro team next year, it will be good exposure for you, and I thought why not? Let’s give it one more shot.”
Now coming off his third professional season with Fury FC, this year being named the club’s Player of the Year, Haworth has more than made the most of his opening. With seven goals and four assists in the club’s 2016 campaign, his breakthrough season meant a great deal.
“It’s always great to be recognized for individual success, so it was an honor to be named the Player of the Year,” Haworth said. “For me, it’s something that can show kids in Ottawa, kids in Canada importantly they can play locally and they can play within Canada and they can do well. It gives them something to work toward.”
Providing inspiration for younger Canadian players is something Haworth hopes he brings as he competes in Ottawa. As the sport’s profile has grown in the country, so have more opportunities of the kind that Haworth believes weren’t available when he was coming through the youth ranks a decade ago. Now, with more competitive opportunities for Canadian players in both the professional and amateur ranks, Haworth hopes more players will get the chance to follow his path.
As for Fury FC, the new year will bring a new home in the USL. With the club’s and his own previous history in the PDL, and the USL’s growth over the past three seasons, the prospect of competing in the league is an exciting one for Haworth.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” he said. “Everyone, all of the players are excited, the staff’s excited, the ownership’s excited to be a part of something like the USL that’s been growing exponentially recently. To get to play in front of 15-, 20,000 in Cincinnati, that’s going to be amazing. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue to generate a decent crowd as well, we know the competition’s going to be right up there, and it’s just an exciting time. We’re looking forward to getting started.”
On paper, the side certainly seems ready to hit the ground running. With a number of key players returning to the squad, and the addition of players like former Rochester Rhinos forward Steevan Dos Santos, Fury FC has the look of a side that should it stay healthy could be an immediate contender in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
“We built toward something at the end of the season, we started playing some really good football,” said Haworth. “We were plagued by injuries early on, so to go into the season with a full and healthy squad and be able to compete right from Day 1 and build on some of the positives that we had this year is exciting.”
As for a return to the Canadian fold, Haworth is hopeful his first appearance won’t be his last.
“I got some good feedback from the Canada staff at the last camp, the next camp is early January so there’s not much turnaround,” Haworth said. “I’m hoping to be involved in the conversation at least. I think I put myself in a decent situation, so hopefully I’ll get off to a good start in 2017 and keep getting called into the squad and maybe represent Canada in a tournament someday.”