League's Best Defense Meets League's Best Attack In Showdown In The Championship Semifinals

Ottawa looks to limit the Loons' high-scoring attack to advance to The Championship FInal
Matthew Levine (@NASLInsider} | Nov 5, 2015

The NASL’s best defensive unit is gearing up for a critical test against the league’s highest-scoring team. Ottawa Fury FC hosts Minnesota United at TD Place on Sunday in The Championship Semifinals.

Dating to last year, every match between the two clubs has been extremely tight.

“When we look at the six games played against Minnesota in the last two years – our only six games in our history – have all been a one-goal difference [or less],” Ottawa head coach Marc Dos Santos told “It’s going to be a tight game for sure, and a game that both teams respect each other a lot. We have to be very focused on what we have to do.”

This season, Ottawa picked up its first victory, 1-0, over the Loons at TD Place in the Spring Season. The teams played to a 1-1 draw and later in the Fall Season, Minnesota stunned Fury FC with a late winner from Daniel Mendes in a 2-1 victory to snap Ottawa’s 12-game unbeaten run and handed Fury FC its only home loss of the Fall Season.

Over the course of the season, the Loons sported the league’s most vibrant attack. Christian Ramirez led the way with 12 goals, but Minnesota is capable of receiving goals from anywhere. Nothing highlights that more than fullback Justin Davis putting his name on the scoresheet five times this year.

“We just have to do what we’ve been doing – stay nice and compact, dropping the line when we need to, get numbers behind the ball, and not letting them play in areas that could hurt us,” Ottawa defender Colin Falvey said. “We’re well aware that there is more than Ramirez that can cause problems in their team, but we have plenty of weapons on our own.”

Fury FC’s success begins with the familiarity among the back line. Falvey, Rafael Alves, and Ryan Richter have started all 30 games, while Mason Trafford has made 25 appearances. Knowing each other’s roles and playing styles has led to Ottawa conceding a mere 23 goals. Goalkeeper Romuald Peiser finished with a goals against average of 0.76.

“We all complement each other very well – Peiser in net and myself, Falvey, Alves and Richter,” Trafford said. “We all bring certain attributes that make us a good defense. We’re very focused, we take a lot pride in what we do, and not letting other teams score and making it difficult for them. We’ll just have to up our level of focus and intensity and everything will have to be as good or better so we can keep moving forward in the playoffs.”

If Ottawa can limit the Loons – scorers of 54 goals in the regular season – in front of its home crowd, it could very well lead to being one step closer to lifting the Soccer Bowl trophy.

“Having the playoff game – especially at home after winning the Fall Season – is going to be a real treat for the city and our fans who have been supporting us week in and week out,” Trafford said. “It feels good to be able to give them this game and even one more potentially depending on how things go. It’s going to be a party here on Sunday hopefully and give us the extra lift we need against Minnesota.”

Falvey added: “It’s been a long, long time since Ottawa brought home a professional trophy. [The Ottawa Senators won the NHL’s Stanley Cup in 1927, and the defunct Ottawa Rough Riders won the CFL’s Grey Cup in 1976.] It would be nice to be a part of the side that breaks that duck regarding a trophy from the city’s point of view. We’re excited, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s the semifinal – we haven’t won anything yet – so we’re well aware of how important this game is.”

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