By Jessica Hellen
Following the success of its women’s league soccer team, the Ottawa Fury soccer club has decided to add a men’s team for the 2005 season this summer.
The team will play in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL), and kick off its 16-game season at Keith Harris Stadium on May 28.
“At the moment, there is no senior men’s soccer team in Ottawa,” says John Pugh, CEO and owner of the Ottawa Fury. “It’s a natural extension of what we’ve been doing.”
Pugh says the decision to add a men’s PDL team was made in the fall at the end of last season.
“I think it’s extremely exciting for the PDL and for Canadian soccer,” says Steve Clamp, director of PDL operations.
“The Ottawa Fury has been a great addition to the W-League and we look forward to [the men’s team] joining the PDL.”
Pugh says the team is currently in the process of putting together the roster.
“It’s going to be a blend of local players and top collegiate players. The goal is to sign Canadian players wherever possible,” he says.
“There’s a lot of good male players in the Ottawa area. We’d like to have a team soccer fans can come cheer on the men’s side just like they do on the women’s side.”
PDL teams can have a maximum of 26 players, and must have three under the age of 19. The team is allowed to have eight players over 23 years old, but can only dress five for a game.
Technical Director Colin McCurdy says the Fury will probably have three or four.
“We want to concentrate and give an opportunity to young players,” he says.
“There’s an opportunity for these kids to be scouted and it keeps them in good shape when they go back to university.”
McCurdy says it hasn’t been difficult to attract players because of the reputation and success of the W-League.
The Fury’s women’s team has finished third and fourth in the North American championships the past two years.
The PDL is made up of 55 teams.
The Ottawa Fury will play in the Northeast division with Albany, Brooklyn, Cape Cod, Reading, Rhode Island, Ocean City, Vermont and Westchester. Westchester won the championship in 2001 and Cape Cod won in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Ocean City, which played as South Jersey last year, was one of two teams undefeated in the 2004 season.
“We are in one of the toughest divisions,” Pugh says. “It’s a challenge, but it’s obviously a challenge we relish.
“Oh, it’s going to be a big challenge, but that’s the fun of it,” McCurdy says.
“[We’re] a new team and we are playing against some teams who are pretty established.”
Pugh says his goal is “to have a men’s team that’s at the same stature as the women’s team,” which was named 18th in the world by World Football Rankings.
“We hope to get a good crowd and a good atmosphere,” he says.
Pugh says he would love to attract between 1,000 and 1,500 fans to each game at Carleton University’s stadium, which can hold 2,500 people.
According to Pugh, fans can expect to see some of the best collegiate players in North America when they go to a game.
“The PDL has a record of players going to play on the national team,” he says.
“The league is designed to help prepare players for professional careers.”
Clamp says fans can look forward to very competitive and extremely skilled soccer being played.
“Our aim is to make the playoffs,” McCurdy says. “That’s not going to be easy, but that’s the aim.”
The Fury will begin practices on May 8, and a three-day training camp is planned for May 16-18 in Kemptville.
“I want to make sure that we’re very competitive,” McCurdy says.
“I’m quite confident that we’ll do it.”