Ottawa Fury ready for next Canadian Championship hurdle

Ottawa Fury FC's Jonny Steele (red jersey) looks to get past a visiting FC Edmonton defender during a Amway Canadian Championship game on May 18, 2016. (Photo: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography)

OTTAWA -- After three tries, Ottawa Fury FC is through to the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals for the first time. It knows, however, that the task of ultimately lifting the trophy and securing a berth in the 2017/18 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (SCCL) will become more difficult.

By dispatching fellow NASL side FC Edmonton, 3-2 on aggregate, in the tournament’s preliminary round, defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer next stands in the way.

“Football’s a great game where the underdog can win when you perform to the best of your abilities,” said Fury head coach Paul Dalglish. “We’re going into the game to try to win. I’d rather lose trying to win than lose by inviting that pressure. If we allow Vancouver time on the ball, and we give them too much, then the quality of their players will pick us off.”

Since joining the NASL in 2014, Ottawa had never gotten past FC Edmonton until this year. It played a strong opener in Edmonton two weeks ago, picking up a 3-0 win. A second-leg loss followed at home last Wednesday, but the 2-0 setback did not eradicate the well-earned cushion.

In the previous two seasons, Edmonton prevailed over the Fury and went on to cause all kinds of trouble for its MLS challenger. In 2014, Edmonton lost to the Montreal Impact by a single goal after two encounters and, last year, it conceded late in the second leg to fall 3-2 on aggregate to Vancouver.

It’s something from which Ottawa can draw confidence against a higher-profile foe, one which played in the 2015/16 SCCL.

“Edmonton has a style of play that upsets the MLS teams,” Dalglish noted. “I can see why they’ve caused problems in the past and we’ve got to learn from that and take that into the game against Vancouver.”

Ottawa will face MLS opposition in competitive action for the first time on June 1, when it hosts the Canadian Championship, first leg at TD Place Stadium.

“It’s a David versus Goliath story if we do manage to do it,” finished Dalglish. “It was important for us to get past Edmonton. Now we’ve just got to enjoy the experience and you just never know what can happen.”