Paul Dalglish won’t hear of any excuses from his team for Tuesday’s ungodly kickoff time of 11 a.m. at TD Place stadium.
As Ottawa soccer fanatics know, 11 is a great time to settle into a pub and watch telecasts of Premier League matches from England, or a great time to work up a thirst with a pickup game at the RA Centre.
However, a key United Soccer League matchup between the Fury and Orlando City B?
“If a burglar breaks into you house at 6 a.m., you have to be ready to fight, no? Seriously?” said Dalglish, who will be receiving measured advice from his visiting father, the legend of Liverpool Football Club Kenny Dalglish.
“When the schedule first came out, there were no game times on it,” the head coach continued. “But this is something we want to try This is an opportunity to bring new people to one of our games. I don’t think you want to overthink (the start time).”
Fury FC players will run onto the pitch in front of as many as 6,000 elementary school kids, and, while it won’t be the largest crowd to see the team play, the betting is that the south stands will be noisier than they’ve ever been.
The Bytown Boys and Stony Monday Riot in the west end-zone might not even have a chance to be heard.
More important than the crowd, Fury FC needs to rebound from Saturday’s 1-0 road loss in Rochester, where Ottawa gave a forgettable performance in the opening half and found itself down a goal before dominating the second half, putting one shot off the bar and having another possible goal disallowed.
Orlando City is also coming off a 1-0 defeat last week in Toronto. The blanking was Orlando’s first since April 27, while Fury FC hadn’t gone goalless since May 13.
Something has to give for two teams in a large group tied for eighth in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings, and the winner could move into a tie for fifth. Ottawa has a 4-4-4 record, and Orlando City is 4-4-5.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere to play ion front of potential fans for generations,” Dalglish said. “We want to make (the kids) Fury fans for life.
“We have to bounce back (from Rochester) and we’re happy to have a game so quickly. We allowed Rochester too much time and space and really that was the first time all season we had done that. It was hot and maybe that had an affect, but we adjusted at the half and we totally controlled the second half.”
As for player reaction to that early start time, defender Onua Obasi thought the lads were kidding when they told him it was 11 a.m. Forward Carl Haworth, the team’s MVP in North American Soccer League action last year, said it would be business as usual except for an early pre-game meal.
“It’s not what we’re used to, but a lot of guys here played college soccer and they have done this kind of thing before,” said Haworth, who was a welcome addition back to the Fury FC lineup in Rochester after missing the start of the season because of injury. “It’s always exciting to play in front of a few thousand fans, and, if we put on a good show, maybe some of those kids will go home to mom and dad and say they want to come back.”
The Fury put the “School Day” Promotion together because of the success with a similar annual promotion for the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, who in mid-winter put 14,000 or more in the Canadian Tire Centre seats.
“We pitched the idea to all the same schools,” Fury FC communications officer Sinisa Sindik said. “But it’s the end of the school year and some schools already had things booked.”
The south stands will be reserved for students and teachers, while season-ticket holders and fans purchasing game-day tickets will be sent to the north stands during the alcohol-free event.