Photo courtesy Ottawa Fury FC
Ottawa Fury FC has made significant headway during this offseason, having yet stepped onto the field for a USL match. With Head Coach Paul Dalglish and the team securing some solid signings from front to back and the organization forming a substantial partnership with Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact, the Fury’s 2017 USL debut already looks to be a promising one.
“It kind of bridges the two cities between Montreal and Ottawa,” Dalglish said of the newfound partnership. “It’s huge for us. It’s a respectful partnership where we have our own identity in that we are an independent team. Our main goal is to win, first and foremost. We’re going to help each other on and off the field, to try and learn from each other and build the market of soccer in our part of Canada.”
Fury President John Pugh, during the 2016 USL Winter Summit, called the affiliation a “perfect match” for both clubs.
“The affiliation agreement allows us to do what we want – be an independent club, sign players that we want to sign – but also bring in a small number of their players to boost our roster,” Pugh said. “They will benefit greatly from playing with players of the caliber that we’ve signed for our team. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
As USL fans become familiar with the addition of Ottawa, those within the league are more than acquainted with Dalglish, whose efforts particularly shone through the Austin Aztex. First, he spent two seasons with the Premier Development League side, earning PDL Coach of the Year honors after leading the 2013 team to the PDL crown. Then, he returned to the organization for the 2015 USL season.
Ottawa will continue building its roster, and from what Dalglish has in place, he is hoping for a versatile, attack-minded group on the pitch.
“The way I want to play is a 4-3-3 with attacking, entertaining soccer,” Dalglish said. “Winning’s important, but you’ve got to win and entertain at the same time. That’s the type of football I’ve always asked my teams to play. If people are going to watch my team play, I want to make sure it’s a team I’d pay to watch myself. I promise any fan that comes to watch that I’ll work hard to produce that.”
Ottawa’s fan base has grown throughout its three previous seasons, averaging more than 5,500 per home game at TD Place Stadium this past year.
“We were one of the teams in the NASL that the fan base grew,” Dalglish said. “We’re getting bigger and bigger reach year, and that’s a great credit to the organization for putting on a good event, when people come to the games and they want to come back. That’s a credit to the people who work off the field, the players who work on the field and everybody in the organization. We’re committed to growing and making it bigger and better.”
Fury FC has a number of front office figures who have made substantial strides in building its product. Pugh in particular was part of the undertaking of building the brand when the organization fielded a W-League team.
“The person running the W-League team at the time was having difficulty making ends meet with it, and I thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity. I can give something back to soccer,’” Pugh said. “My son was also playing local soccer, so seeing if we could build youth soccer in particular was one of my goals, and build a women’s team.
“That led later on to a men’s team and the invitation to be part of the Lansdowne renovation. It’s been a dream come true, and I’m very grateful to my partners, because of course without them, the latter stage of the pro club, the stadium and the revitalization of the park would never have happened.”
Fury FC and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks are experiencing the fruits of an extensive, multi-year process to not only revamp the stadium that has turned into TD Place but the entire Lansdowne Park grounds.
“It moved forward as let’s fix the whole park, let’s rebuild the stadium in partnership with the city and make it a multi-use destination,” Pugh said. “There would be 400,000 square feet of retail, condominiums and town homes on the site, restaurants, and be a place to go even when there wasn’t a game. That was the whole concept, and some people opposed it at various levels, but it came to fruition. Right now we’re basking in the fact that we have this incredible asset that we were able to use for the Women’s World Cup, for the Redblacks and the Fury.”
This path has set the table for Ottawa and the continuation of its growth amid a budding USL.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be part of the fastest-growing league in the world,” Dalglish said. “We’re really excited about the future. I’ve only been out of the league for a couple of years, but you can already see the improvement, and it’s only going to get bigger and better. The partnership with MLS just puts the league in a fantastic position to grow and improve, and truly be the top second division in the world.
“We’re all motivated, and we all understand we’ve got a responsibility to grow this league together and try and put the best product that we can on the field.”
Additional reporting by Nicholas Murray