Ottawa

Home opener to test Fury FC's new attitude

The Ottawa Fury are ready to win, and it all begins with a change in attitude among the players, according to general manager Julian de Guzman.

Team hopes culture shift, player incentives will earn more wins

Fury defender and Ottawa native Jamar Dixon battles for the ball in the team's 1-0 win over Birmingham Legion FC during preseason action on March 16, 2019. (Birmingham Legion FC)

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  • The Fury ended up falling 3-0 to Nashville SC in Saturday's game — their first loss of the season.

The Ottawa Fury are ready to win, and it all begins with a change in attitude among the players, according to general manager Julian de Guzman.

"It's a more positive environment," de Guzman told CBC's All In A Day on Thursday, two days before the Fury's home opener against Nashville SC at TD Place.

I think fans want to see a winning team.- Julian de Guzman, Ottawa Fury GM 

"Everyone's fighting for a position. Everyone's fighting for those minutes. Everyone's fighting for everyone to push themselves to get a win for the team," said de Guzman, who took over the GM's role just months after announcing his retirement as a player.

The Fury is going into its home opener with a win and a tie in its first two away games

The team struggled last year to break out of a win one, tie one, lose one rut last year, missing the ​United Soccer League Championship ​playoffs yet again.

To turn things around this year, de Guzman is making sure player contracts include performance incentives.

"It's the best way to really push the player to achieve those goals and targets as an individual as well as a team player," de Guzman said. "That's just the nature of this business. That's what I've gone through as a player myself, and that's what I expect for our professional players today."

Julian de Guzman speaks to reporters at TD Place on Aug. 25, 2017, ahead of his first home game as interim head coach and general manager of Ottawa Fury FC. He officially assumed the GM role later that year. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

A culture shift

According to head coach Nicola Popovic, those incentives complement the culture shift he's worked to implement in the locker room since being brought on in December 2017.

Popovic said the strategy is based on core values that highlight discipline and responsibility.

"If you take care of [those values] every day, you come to a moment and then you have a strong culture and then you can even think more about the way you're going to play," he said.

While the team showed flashes of success last year, it suffered a slow start. Then there was the off-season drama brought about when CONCACAF, the sport's governing body in the Americas, tried to force the Fury into the new Canadian Premier League.

Popovic admitted the kerfuffle cost the team three potential players who were close to signing, but were scared off by the uncertaintly.

"I think we have 80 per cent of the players we wanted," he said. "Even with these difficulties, we were able to bring in a big part of the names we were wanting to bring in."

Wins draw fans

De Guzman believes more consistent winning will draw more fans to TD Place.

"Right now it's just a matter of getting results, becoming a successful team, and continuing to entertain the fans on a regular basis at home," he said. "I think fans want to see a winning team."

Last season, fans didn't see many wins at home, nor many goals: the team has been scoreless at TD Place since August 15, a statistic Popovic acknowledges is unacceptable.

"The more quality you have in front, the more goals you're going to score, and we're focused on that part," he said. "Our offensive line has much more quality than last year."

Nashville SC is undergoing a major transformation of its own: the team will join Major League Soccer next season.

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