By Dan Plouffe, originally published July 19 in Ottawa This Week
The Ottawa Fury will have to wear the tag of “best team to never have won a title” for at least one year longer after falling 6-1 to the Atlanta Silverbacks in the W-League championship game on Sunday, July 31 in Seattle.
The Fury had conceded just seven goals all year long en route to perfect 15-0 record leading up to the final, but it was the Silverbacks who sent Ottawa back home with a silver medal, nearly matching the seven goal total in the decisive contest of the United Soccer Leagues North American women’s soccer season.
“I think for the first time in a long time we just didn’t play real well,” Fury coach Dom Oliveri said by telephone from Seattle, the site of the Final Four weekend. “We made a lot of mental errors. All credit to Atlanta for taking their chances, but we didn’t have anywhere close to our best day.”
Mallory Outerbridge, the W-League’s MVP, registered her 22nd goal of the campaign in the final after the Fury were reduced to 10 players following a red card and a penalty kick goal that put Atlanta up 3-0. But the Silverbacks responded less than five minutes later and cruised on to their first league championship.
Outerbridge also scored twice in the Fury’s 3-2 victory over host Seattle in the Friday, July 29 semi-final, while her team racked up a pile of individual honours at the league banquet the night before – Amanda Fancher was named the W-League’s top defender, Oliveri was chosen as coach of the year, Jessica Shufelt was selected to the league all-star team (along with Outerbridge and Fancher), while goalkeeper Jasmine Phillips was picked as a conference all-star.
“We’re obviously proud of what the team’s achieved this year,” noted Oliveri, a first-year head coach. “Going 15-1 over a 16-game season, and the way we’ve done it, the club is really proud of the players. We didn’t reach our final goal, and it’s a little disappointing, but we’ll get ready next year and try to win it again.”
Oliveri expects there will be some changes to the team’s roster come next summer since several players will be graduating from college and moving on to careers that won’t allow them to continue in soccer.
However, question marks buzzed at the start of this season about what the Fury might be able to achieve since their lineup featured many new faces, and they wound up creating a historic benchmark for the club.
“There’s going to be some turnover,” acknowledged Oliveri, whose troops became the third Fury squad to wind up as W-League bridesmaids after defeats in the 2006 and 2005 championship games. “But every year we field a team that’s competitive and has a chance to win the title, and I don’t think next year is going to be any different.”
Oliveri said it was “something very special” for the team to go as far as it did, especially because the players became such a close group while living together throughout the soccer season in a small apartment complex downtown.
“I think it makes it a little more difficult to lose because we all wanted to win it for each other,” Oliveri added. “They’ve gotten along off the field and on the field, and it’s been a great experience. I’ve been coaching soccer for 10 years and there hasn’t been a team that I’ve coached like this.”