Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Thanks to the magic of video replay, there was little doubt for the viewing audience on Rogers TV in Canada and on USLNation.com for the rest of the world the joy that Ottawa Fury owner John Pugh took in his side’s victory in the W-League Championship on Sunday afternoon.
With the bumps in the road that came before the Fury finally lifted the championship trophy for the first time in their history, you certainly couldn’t blame him for the outpouring of emotion on the sideline as Kelly Conheeney’s penalty kick found the back of the net.
“It means a lot,” Pugh said by phone, still basking in the thrilling victory. “With what we had to go through to get there makes it so much sweeter that we actually achieved it in the end.”
Ottawa’s history in the W-League Championship had been one of heartbreak. Despite reaching seven previous championship weekends, and three previous finals, the Fury had never been able to take the W-League crown, including a heavy loss in last season’s championship game against Atlanta. This year’s final appeared to be heading toward a familiar ending for the Fury too, with the Pali Blues holding the second-minute lead they gained through Nikki Washington into second-half stoppage time.
Pugh, however, had believed that his side’s name was destined to be on the trophy this season, and with almost the final kick of the game, Ashley Seal breathed new life into the final, and her side, as she scrambled home the rebound of a free kick for the equalizer.
From there, the two teams played to a stalemate in extra time. That set the stage for goalkeeper Jasmine Phillips, whose two saves allowed the Fury to claim victory. The drama of the championship game, following three top-quality encounters in the two semifinals and earlier consolation game, proved a fitting conclusion to a remarkable weekend.
“I think it was a great championship weekend,” Pugh said. “I think all four games that were played were played at a very high standard, and I think anybody that came out and watched the games, or even watched them being streamed, would recognize that it was a very high standard of play.”
The standards off the field matched those on it, with the Fury getting tremendous support from Ottawa Tourism and their local staff of volunteers and the soccer community. Pugh’s aim was for the players, coaches and fans that were visiting the Canadian capital to have a memorable time regardless of the outcomes on the field, and it certainly appeared that was accomplished.
“We were able to do the award banquet on a boat cruise down the Ottawa River passing by the Parliament building,” Pugh said. “The weather cooperated, I think everything went well, so I think people will have fond memories of coming up here.”
With a championship finally in hand, the Fury’s players will certainly have fond memories of their summer with the club, and hopefully the chance to move on to greater accomplishments in the future. Ottawa was home to five players currently competing at the Olympics in London, and saw one of this year’s squad earn her first international cap during the season when 19-year-old Australian Katrina-Lee Gorry flew to Japan to represent the full national team against World Cup holders Japan last month.
With the Fury having a full range of age-group squads below their W-League and PDL sides in the USL development pyramid, the current crop of players has not only had the chance to continue their progress as players, but also the chance to help the club’s younger players as they aim to become W-League players in the future.
“It’s great for players at our club because we integrate those players into our community,” Pugh said. “They’re training with our U13 and U14 girls during the evenings and also helping us out with the camps that we offer, so it’s a kind of a two-way street, they’re giving back to our community as well while they’re here.”
As for Pugh, don’t expect his celebrations to be tempered in the future now that his side has claimed its first championship.
“It’s hard to contain yourself,” Pugh said. “I haven’t seen [the replay] yet. Some friends of mine had recorded the event, and I went over to watch it, and it stopped just before we scored the equalizing goal because it was in a two-hour window, I guess, and it extended beyond it, so I have yet to see the replay of that goal, and the ensuing penalty kicks.
“It was great coverage by Rogers, I have to say, and they had nine cameras there, and I think they were having some fun with both Coach [Dom] Olivera and myself at strategic moments, for instance when we missed a penalty kick, and when we scored them, so certainly after [the equalizing] goal I was quick off my feet, I’m sure.”