Goalkeeper Coach Bruce Grobbelaar Helps Elevate Ottawa Fury FC

Ottawa's defensive record speaks for itself with 'keeper Romuald Peiser on a path towards the Golden Glove
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Aug 25, 2015

With the day’s training over, Bruce Grobbelaar, Ottawa Fury FC’s goalkeeper coach, was in the process of clearing the decks ahead of his next big task – watching one of his former clubs, Liverpool, take on Arsenal in a Monday matinee from Emirates Stadium in London.

Funny thing is, the well-traveled goalkeeper from Zimbabwe with a résumé stretching back more than 40 years wasn't recognized by Ottawa head coach Marc dos Santos at first. During the initial conversation, dos Santos was told it was a goalkeeper named Bruce from Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. 

“Ottawa was looking for a goalkeeper coach and Marc got my name from someone at the CSA,” Grobbelaar said, referring to the Canadian Soccer Association. “He really didn’t know who I was when we first talked on the phone. He asked if I had any experience with professional goalkeepers and players.

“He rang me and I listened to him. I sent him my CV. He called back and apologized because he didn’t know it was me. He asked me to come in for two weeks, that was last year during the Fall Season, and offered me a contract for four months or 16 months. I took 16 months.”

Now, dos Santos and the rest of the Ottawa organization are glad he did and certainly know who Grobbelaar is and what he can do.

If results are a reflection of a coaching staff, Fury FC has been making all the right moves. Heading into Wednesday’s marquee matchup against the visiting New York Cosmos (4W-3D-1L,15 points), a match that will be featured on NASL Wednesday Night Soccer on ONE World Sports (and also available on, first-place Ottawa (6-1-1, 19 points) holds a four-point lead over four teams that are all tied on 15 points – Minnesota, FC Edmonton, New York, and Atlanta. It is no small coincidence then that Ottawa goalkeeper Romuald Peiser has been a tenacious guardian of his goal all year long.

The Frenchman set an NASL Modern Era record of 648 scoreless minutes while ringing up 8 shutouts (including 6 in a row spanning the Spring and Fall seasons) earlier in the year. After 18 starts, Peiser leads all goalkeepers with a microscopic 0.89 goals against average.

What has changed from this year to last, when Ottawa lost 14 of 27 matches overall and shipped 38 goals. To listen to Grobbelaar it has been practice, practice, practice.

“When I came here I asked the ‘keepers what sort of exercises they were doing in training and they said just a few and that they repeated them every day,” Grobbelaar said. “I like them to have fast feet, and we work on that, up and down. I like ‘keepers to get off the ground as quick as they can. We do a lot of that. When I first came here, Romuald was getting caught with balls over his head hit with power. Now he’s more springy, spinning like a spring chicken.”

In addition to his work on the field with his three goalkeepers – Peiser’s backups are the young Canadians Marcel DeBellis and Waleed Cassis – Grobbelaar each week pores over video of the upcoming opponent to analyze their tendencies and prepare Peiser, and the Ottawa defense, for what they are likely to see during the match.

“I’ve been in professional football all my life and I like to know what the opposition holds for us,” he said. “We did it when I was at Liverpool and Southampton and that’s how we do it now at Ottawa.”

That said, he gingerly stepped around a question of how he would prepare Peiser for the match against the Cosmos. “We do look at the runs that [Lucky] Mkosana makes on through balls from Raúl and some of those crosses from the sides.” Is that all? “Mostly.”

To be sure, Peiser has not done it all by himself. The Ottawa back four has been steady and stalwart in front of Peiser with Mason Trafford (“a revelation”) on the left, Ryan Richter (“a machine”) on the right, and Colin Falvey (“a hard man”) and Rafael Alves (“just a brilliant defender”) forming a nearly impenetrable tandem in central defense.

Before embarking on an itinerant soccer career in Britain, Grobbelaar was a fixture in goal for the Vancouver Whitecaps during the NASL’s Golden Era. “I love Vancouver,” he said. “I’ve been back a few times and boy has it changed. I used to love playing at the old Empire Stadium.”

Over a span of 20 years, Grobbelaar played 33 times for Zimbabwe’s national team and still harbors ambitions to lead his nation to the forefront of African soccer.

“I asked the ex-coach of the national team and he said he had never heard of Lucky,” Grobbelaar said. “That’s another one Zimbabwe is missing and I would certainly put him in the mix at striker if I was the coach. It’s not only Lucky. There are a bunch of players in USL who play at American colleges, playing a good level of football, certainly at a better level than the third division in South Africa where they are getting most of their national team players from.

“I believe that Zimbabwe has the smartest footballers in southern Africa and I believe they are very, very good. If they ever get things sorted out I think they have a good chance to go to the next level in 2017 and 2019, which is the Africa Cup of Nations.”

For now, though, Grobbelaar is making a lasting impression on dos Santos, the Ottawa goalkeepers and the entire NASL.

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