Ottawa Fury FC lose NASL championship 3-2 to the New York Cosmos

Ottawa Fury FC couldn't bring the North American Soccer League championship back to TD Place, falling 3-2 to the New York Cosmos at James H. Shuart Stadium on Long Island Sunday night.

Fury score twice with 10 players after controversial red card

Raul, right, fights for the ball near the corner flag as his New York Cosmos edged Ottawa Fury FC 3-2 in the NASL Soccer Bowl on Nov. 15, 2015. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

It was as eventful a five-minute span as you'll see in a soccer game: three events that all could have stood alone as game-defining turning points on another day, instead setting the stage for the New York Cosmos' 3-2 win over the Ottawa Fury FC in the North American Soccer League championship game on Sunday night.

The Fury were starting to click offensively as the second half wore on at James H. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., after a first half with a single Cosmos goal from Gastón Cellerino eight minutes in.

As the clock turned over to the 68th minute, Fury defender Mason Trafford got tangled up with an opponent, jumped in the air and came down with both feet on his ribs.

Trafford was given a red card, meaning the Fury would be a man short the rest of the game.

"Some days the [referee] brushes it off as an accident and it's nothing or he gives that, it's either one or the other and he went for that," he said after the game.

"[I'm] obviously disappointed, I'm devastated, I can't say it enough."

"Not a red card. Not a red card at all," said Fury head coach Marc Dos Santos.

Raul (airborne) hugs teammate Leonardo Fernandes as the final whistle blows, meaning a New York Cosmos 3-2 win over the Ottawa Fury in the NASL Soccer Bowl final Sunday, Nov. 15. (Andrew Foote/CBC)
Trafford may not have been all the way down the tunnel to the locker room when leading scorer and semi-final hero Tom Heinemann was sent in alone and poked a ball past Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer in the 70th minute to tie the game, a score that held for all of two minutes or so before Cellerino crashed the net and banged in a rebound to put the Cosmos up again.

"Second half we came out, started a little bit better and obviously the sending off happened. It killed us to be honest," said Fury midfielder and captain Ritchie Ryan.

"But then we still show character to come back to 1-1. If we had just killed the game a little bit rather than conceding so close to our equalizer then we might have held out for extra time."

Cellerino completed the hat trick in the 85th minute and it became the eventual game-winner when Heinemann scored his second of the game and fourth of the playoffs in stoppage time.

The Cosmos would hold off the Fury for the last few minutes and win their second NASL title in the last three years, ending a 12-game unbeaten streak for the Fury.

"We lost the final against the New York Cosmos, in New York, against a very strong team," Dos Santos said.

"My guys were champions all year and they lost like champions, they have to get out of here with their head high."

Moving on

Former Real Madrid star Raul assisted on New York's game winning goal in his final professional game, as he and countryman Marcus Senna had gone public with their plans to retire after the game.

Dos Santos is also leaving for a coaching opportunity in Major League Soccer, one level higher than the NASL.

"It's time to move on," he said after the game.

"Maybe in 10 years I'll be back with the Ottawa Fury ... I don't know the future. I just think that now in my life, personally, I have to have another challenge."

"[Marc] doesn't just help you as a footballer; he helps you as a person as well. He makes sure he can help you off the field, makes sure you're happy off the field as well. You don't get that from many football managers," Ryan said.

"He's not just our manager, he's a friend and I'm sure he will be to everybody moving on."

Record crowd includes buses from Ottawa

A modern-era NASL playoff record crowd of 10,166 people came to Shuart Stadium to see the spring season champions beat the fall champions, including two busloads of Fury fans and employees of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns the team.

Representatives from OSEG estimated there were about 150 people from Ottawa at the game, some of whom paid the $50 fare for a ticket and bus trip that left Ottawa at 6 a.m. and returned after the game.

Several of the Ottawa fans were upbeat about the season as a whole, despite the finish.

"This is actually my second trip to New York this year, I was here in May and we lost 1-0 to the Cosmos," said Jon Eden right before boarding the bus back to Ottawa.

"We ended the spring season in ninth, Marc Dos Santos came over at that time and said to us, 'We're going to turn this around,' I said yeah right and then we had the fall season that dreams are made of. We only had one loss, it was amazing."

"To have the crowd we had here today travelling shows a lot of the strength and how much this club has grown," Dos Santos said. 

"To see the fanbase going from 1,800 at Carleton (in the team's first spring season in 2014) to almost 10,000 against Minnesota ... I'm very attached to what was done here."

NASL Soccer Bowl recap