The Ottawa Fury’s bid to become W-League champions for the first time in its history collapsed under a barrage of goals Sunday night.
Chasing a perfect season and favoured going into the United Soccer Leagues W-League final against the Atlanta Silverbacks in Seattle, the women’s Fury fell behind early, had a player sent off after 36 minutes and could never recover.
It was 3-0 down at halftime and needed a fast start to the second half if it was to have any chance. That came when Mallory Outerbridge scored with just four minutes gone.
But any hope was shortlived. It took the Silverbacks only five minutes to strike for the fourth time and when a fifth flew in with a little less than 20 minutes remaining, the Fury misery was just about complete.
There was one more cruel kick to come – a sixth Atlanta goal in the dying moments of the game.
“This is certainly not where we wanted to be,” said owner John Pugh, minutes after the final whistle.
“We had a great season and it was not the end we wanted. We deserved better and we were certainly not five goals worse than Atlanta.”
Pugh suggested that the Fury did not get off to a good start and struggled to get its passing game going. When Courtney Wetzel was sent off for a last-man-back tackle, conceding a penalty in the process and leaving the team three goals behind, any sort of recovery had become “a very, very difficult task.”
He repeated that he was extremely proud of the squad for the way in which it never stopped fighting to stay in the game. But playing some 60 minutes with 10 players when it was already three down proved too steep a hill to climb.
This squad assembled by coach Dom Oliveri was almost entirely new to the Fury. It was young and, for many, it was a first taste of major playoffs, let alone playing for a North American title.
“Perhaps they overachieved a little during the season,” Pugh said.
“But I am very, very proud of them and so should Ottawa be.”
Coach Oliveri undoubtedly knew what to expect from the Silverbacks, who had run Vancouver ragged in their semifinal and proceeded to harry and hurry the Fury midfield, shutting down its passing lanes in the process. Ottawa could find no space and, consequently, little rhythm. That, coupled with a tall, strong Atlanta back four and a potent attacking force proved too much.
It was a dismal end to what had looked likely to be the most exciting season ever put together by the Fury women. The club has been to the championship final twice in the past, losing to the New Jersey Wildcats in 2005 and the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2006. This year promised to land the club the top prize.
Unbeaten in the regular season, Oliveri’s squad had raced to the Central Conference title with lopsided wins over the Toronto Lady Lynx and the Quebec Amiral.
In addition, striker Outerbridge, attacking midfielder Jessica Shufelt and central defender Amanda Fancher had all been named to the W-League All-League team.
Oliveri, named coach of the year, was quietly confident going into the Final Four in Seattle and, once the host club had been beaten on Friday, believed his team would be ready for the Silverbacks.
It did not turn out that way and, for the third time in their history, the Fury women fell at the final hurdle.
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