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Preview: Riverhounds SC vs Ottawa Fury

Let’s see, who are we playing this week? Oh great, it’s the Ottawa Fury. So I can just write that they’re a bad team of has-beens, they’re bound to finish 10th, and call it a night. Wait, they’re in 4th? They have a 6-2-3 (WLT) record? Color me surprised.

This year’s Ottawa Fury care not for the narratives of the past. Hounds fans will generally think of Ottawa as those lovable losers from north of the border; since becoming a professional football club in 2015, Ottawa have experienced just one winning season in their history – the 2015 NASL Fall season. In 2016, their last year in the NASL, they finished 10th. In 2017, their first in USL, they finished 10th. In 2018, they finished… 10th. They may have been bad, but at least they were consistent.

So imagine my shock to find that Ottawa are actually good this season.

One reason is simple: they started scoring. The 2018 Fury scored the second-fewest goals in the USL East, with just 31 goals. Through 11 games in 2019, the Fury have 17 goals, a respectable 8th in the Eastern Conference. Goals win games, kids.

Another reason for their success is that to this point in the season, Ottawa has been playing the weakest teams in USL Eastern Conference. That might indicate that these early results are deceptive. Ottawa’s six wins this season are against Birmingham, Loudoun, ATL2, North Carolina, Bethlehem, and Charlotte. Those teams have a collective record of 18 wins, 27 draws, and 24 losses.

Maybe they actually are good. Or maybe they’re just delaying their inevitable badness until later in the season.

Tactics and Personnel

Ottawa have lined up in a 4-3-3 their last couple games, with a front-three of El Haiji Mour Samb on the right, Kevin Olivera in the middle, and Christiano François on the left. Mour Samb leads the team with 6 goals, good enough for 4th in the Eastern Conference amongst goal scorers. The 25-year-old joined the team from Trømso, a team in the Norwegian first division. He’s a right-footed striker with pace and dribbling skill, plus a powerful shot. Olivera is a fox-in-the-box center forward – he can drop back off the line to be a late-runner into the box for passes from wide, drive to the post and look for a cross or a rebound, or post up and play the ball backwards to the top of the box for an onrushing midfielder. François, you already know about -the former Hound was sold in the offseason to Ottawa. Cheetah brings ridiculous speed down the wing. Cheetah likes to shoot. Cheetah’s not big on passing. Cheetah will dazzle you with goals, but he puts a lot of balls over the net, too. Nobody can match him for speed -the only way to stop him is for your right back to be fast, and good, and to set up deep against François.

For the Hounds, the big worry is that they are a bit thin at right back: Jordan Dover is unavailable, as he is off with Guyana preparing for the Concacaf Gold Cup; Caleb Smith and Prosper Figbe are both injured. It seems likely that Dani Rovira will be tasked with matching with François. Fingers crossed.

One other note on Ottawa’s attack – they like to flip the wings every so often, letting François attack on the right and Mour Samb come down the left. Both wingers, to my eye, are fairly similar, and both prefer their right-foot, so this isn’t a huge move. But it can occasionally confuse defenders or create mismatches.

The midfield three puts one player deep as a shield for the defense. English midfielder Charlie Ward or French-Canadian Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé have both played the role, and both seem up to the task.

After those players, I can’t tell you too much. That’s because the Fury dumped 14 players after 2018 and added 16, including five loanees from Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and TFC II – this roster is still pretty unfamiliar, even to Ottawa fans. The only reliable starter is right back Carl Haworth, a 29-year-old Englishman who has been with the team through all of its trials and tribulations stretching all the way back to their USL-PDL days in 2013. He’s sort of like the Canadian Kevin Kerr that way.

Most Recent Lineup



Match Information

Date: Saturday, June 8

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA


Live StatisticsUSL Championship Match Center

Live Updates: Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvOTT

Featured Picture of El Hadji Moar Samb from Ottawa Fury FC via twitter

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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