Fury FC’s playoff drive going right down to wire
Win and you’re in?
Ottawa Fury FC only wishes its path to the United Soccer League playoffs were that simple.
Having put itself in a precarious position for the post-season through an up-and-down 2018 season, Fury FC enters the final weekend of the USL regular season having to win — and then hope, with maybe a little prayer thrown in.
Fury FC, ninth in the Eastern Conference, must defeat the fourth-place Charleston Battery today in the season finale (2 p.m.) at TD Place. That’s just the start of the dominoes that have to fall for the Fury to play on.
Lose or draw and it’s time to start thinking about the 2019 training camp in February.
If they win, Fury FC will then tune in to ESPN on Saturday night and hope first-place Cincinnati beats seventh-place Nashville.
If Cincinnati wins or the two play to a draw, Ottawa will next turn its attention to Sunday afternoon, with the hope that 12th-place Tampa Bay earns a win or draw versus eighth-place Bethlehem to get the Fury into the post-season.
The three-step formula is a moot point if Fury FC doesn’t beat Charleston.
“I think it’s fantastic that we are going to be in the playoff (mix) until the last moment,” said Fury head coach Nikola Popovic. “A number of teams have nothing to play for. It’s a big difference to have something to play for.
“I think if we get the three points, we have a very good chance of the playoffs. Our mindset is very good. But sometimes there’s a danger of thinking about what’s going on outside of our own game. We must focus just on our game.
“Then, if we make the playoffs, anything is possible.”
Ottawa hasn’t exactly launched a playoff push down the stretch.
The club’s win one, lose one tempo through September led to three wins, two losses and a tie. To its credit, it has accumulated four of a possible six points in the past two games.
August, though, is where the season really may have come off the rails when Fury FC had just two wins and a draw in seven games, including a three-game losing streak between Aug. 22-31 when it was shut out in all three contests.
“For sure, we dropped points along the way that we should have had,” said captain Carl Haworth. “And we put ourselves into a difficult position.
“But we can still put ourselves into a position where we can still make it. Other teams have helped us (to give us a chance), but we have to win our game first.”
Haworth, like many of Fury players, spent the past bye week watching the ESPN feeds of games involving teams Ottawa must hop over, namely Nashville and Bethlehem.
Just Tuesday night, his eyes were glued to a game between Nashville and Toronto FC II in which Nashville took a 2-0 lead late into the game, only to have Toronto rebound with a pair of goals to earn a draw and keep Nashville within striking distance.
“It’s probably the most stressful Tuesday night I have ever spent,” Haworth said. “There’s really nothing we can do about what happens elsewhere.”
Haworth says if the team fails to make it, there would be three key stretches in a gruelling regular schedule that did them in.
“The three situations where we played eight games in a 21-day period,” Haworth said. “That was really tough on us.
“There was all the travelling, the hot summer months, all things we can’t control. I think they were the toughest times.”
If Fury FC finishes eighth, it will play in Cincinnati on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. If Fury FC finishes seventh, it will be in Louisville the same day for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.