Ottawa

Ottawa Fury hope to be giant killers again in TFC matchup

The Ottawa Fury are about to face their most formidable opponent yet. Toronto FC, of Major League Soccer, roll into town for the first leg of their Canadian championship semifinal Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Team's victory over Vancouver Whitecaps in last year's Canadian championship was season highlight

Ottawa Fury FC fans went wild after their team defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in the Amway Canadian championship semi-final on June 1, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The Ottawa Fury are about to face their most formidable opponent yet.

Toronto FC, of Major League Soccer, roll into town for the first leg of their Canadian championship semifinal Tuesday at 7 p.m.

TFC have won this competition five times, while the Fury have made it to the semifinals for the past two seasons, both times defeating FC Edmonton.

… the best way we can show that soccer belongs in Ottawa is by turning out in numbers to support local soccer.- Ottawa Fury head coach Paul Dalglish

That is an accomplishment on its own, according to head coach Paul Dalglish. 

"We won our Canadian championship when we beat Edmonton," he said.

"Now we've just got to enjoy the Canadian championship. It's a big, big game for people who want to come and watch. It's high-level football and the best way we can show that soccer belongs in Ottawa is by turning out in numbers to support local soccer."

Dalglish maintains TFC are not only the class of Canada this season, but also the top Canadian league team to ever play the game.

"Our priority was to get Toronto here, bringing the best team in Canada, ever, to this magnificent stadium and giving our local supporters the chance to see them play," Dalglish said. 

Fury players perform a fun tic-tac-toe drill in training, on May 19, 2017. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

This is the Fury's first season in the United Soccer League, a second division league affiliated with the MLS. TFC, on the other hand, have spent a decade in the MLS, coming off last year's stunning penalty-kick defeat at the hands of the Seattle Sounders. 

David and Goliath

If there's one word to describe TFC, it would be "stacked."

Forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are star players with years of international experience, as is U.S. national team and TFC captain midfielder Michael Bradley. Giovinco has been injured and it's not clear if the other two will play, but Dalglish said TFC remains formidable and his team must go on the attack to have a chance.

"We can't sit back. If you give players of a higher level time on the ball, and time to show you how good they are, then they're going to hurt you a lot more. So we've got to get into them right from the first minute because that's our best chance of winning the game: making them make mistakes under pressure."

One longtime Fury player, who'll have to watch the big game from the sidelines due to injury, is Carl Haworth. He hopes local fans show up in big numbers to help fuel his teammates.

Ottawa Fury head coach Paul Dalglish hopes local supporters take the opportunity to watch their team take on MLS giants, Toronto FC. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

"The fans here are amazing. Even if there are only a couple thousand out there, they're loud, in full voice. Full support. Fully involved, engaged," Haworth said. "And it really does give us that extra little bit, especially in games like this one coming up."

With weather being unpredictable, and the Ottawa Senators in the middle of a big NHL playoff push, it's been difficult for the Fury to the draw crowds they have in the last few seasons, according to team officials.

But, there's a good chance TFC fans will be coming by the busload, making it a possibility that TD Place could look more like the Canadian Tire Centre when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town. As TFC's away colours are white and red, and not white and blue, an invasion from Toronto will be something fans and players are more likely to hear, not see. 

Haworth sees parallels with Fury attendance and Ottawa Senators' home crowds.

"Now, they're winning games. They're creating that buzz," Haworth said. 

"So we're hoping to keep winning games, and maybe if we can go to another championship the way we did two years ago [in the NASL], it can generate that buzz and get more people in the stands."

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