PREVIEW: Depleted Fury FC to Host Tampa

The Run-Up

Things haven’t been going well for Ottawa Fury FC the past two weeks.  There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it: Marc Dos Santos’ side has been unable to put together a ninety-minute performance since April 18th’s victory over Minnesota United.

The road immediately in front of the Red-and-Black isn’t much easier than the hellish two weeks in the club’s rearview mirror, as second-place Tampa Bay awaits on Saturday afternoon.

Ottawa dropped its last four matches by a combined score of 10-3, and sits just three points off the bottom of the NASL table (with bottom-table San Antonio holding a game in-hand).  The club will again be without the services of captain Richie Ryan, while Tom Heinemann, Mike Randolph, Oliver, and Paulo Júnior are all likely to be on the shelf this Saturday as well (source).

PREVIEW: Depleted Fury FC to Host Tampa

Tampa meanwhile, has enjoyed a rebirth of sorts in 2015 under manager (and excellent Twitter follow) Thomas Rongen.  After a disappointing 2014 under Englishman Ricky Hill, the Rowdies have rediscovered their offensive punch under Rongen.  Bulgarian striker Georgi Hristov, who netted fifteen goals in 2013 for Tampa, has led the way in creating a league-leading three assists.

El Salvadorean international Richard Menjivar is also expected to make his Rowdies debut on Saturday.  The 24 year-old midfielder was an integral part of last season’s championship-winning San Antonio side, and was acquired from the Scorpions last week via a trade.

Expert Picks

“With key offensive weapons out and Fury FC already struggling to score, the game will be an uphill battle for Ottawa. 2-1 Rowdies.” – Chris Hofley, Ottawa Sun

“After a few rough weeks and recent traveling, I think Ottawa will click at home and find the three points for the home support. 2-1 Fury FC.” – Stuart MacTaggart, RedNationOnline

“Fury are finding goals harder to come by. Rangoon’s rejigged roster has already gelled very early in the season. 2-1 Rowdies.” – Keaton Robbins, Ottawa Sun

The Odds

Ottawa has been an underdog in four of its first five NASL matches, according to Bet Explorer.  It has been a heavy underdog in three of its first five league matches.  The bottom line is, people aren’t giving Fury FC much of a chance: Ottawa entered last weekend’s match in Brooklyn as +462 underdogs, roughly the same odds as Hull City has been given of overcoming Spurs at White Hart Lane this weekend.

Expect a high-scoring game at TD Place on Saturday.  The visiting Rowdies’ games have averaged 2.6 goals-per, while Ottawa’s games have averaged 2.4.  Tampa has relied increasingly on in-form goalkeeper Matt Pickens in recent weeks, and could be exploited defensively by Ottawa.  By the same token, Ottawa’s defence has given up ten goals in its last four matches.

Prediction

Last week in Brooklyn, my prediction was largely correct. A one-goal Cosmos victory, just not by the 2-1 scoreline I had predicted.

While my heart is telling me that Ottawa will get back in the win column with a crucial victory against an exploitable Rowdies team, I just don’t see it happening.

With Paulo Junior, Oliver, and Richie Ryan – undeniably three of Ottawa’s most creative attacking players – out of Marc Dos Santos’ starting eleven, Fury FC will need a ninety-minute performance from its back four if they want to get a result.

I just don’t see it happening.

Georgi Hristov will work some magic, and perhaps wonderkid Darwin Espinal will be the demon to shred Ottawa’s slow defensive corps in similar fashion to Edmonton’s Lance Laing and New York’s Lucky Mkosana.

Same scoreline as Tampa’s last trip to the Canadian capital. 2-0 Rowdies.

Photo by Mike Stobe/New York Cosmos/Getty Images