Connecticut FC Azul did their best to play spoiler and keep the USL PDL Northeast Division title race down to the last day, but the Ottawa Fury found the goal they needed through Alex Rodriguez ten minutes from the end of regulation time to win 1-0 and clinch first on Friday night at Algonquin College Soccer Complex in Ottawa.
With the win, the Fury (10-3-2, 32 points) continued their perfect run of form at home where they are now 7-0-0 this season. The Azul (5-5-5, 20 points), who were already eliminated from playoff contention, continue to struggle to score on the road. Despite being second in the Northeast Division with 15 goals at home, Azul have just five goals in seven road matches.
Both sides exchanged first half chances with the Fury’s Marcelo Castro’s header off a corner kick being cleared off the line. Former New England Revolution striker Ryan Kinne then got in alone on goal, only to be called offside in what looked to be a tight decision in the Fury’s highlights. Despite five combined first half shots (3 for Ottawa, 2 for Connecticut), however, the two sides entered the break scoreless.
The Fury, hoping to find the win they needed to clinch the Northeast Division with a game remaining, made two substitutes at the half, bringing on forward Jacob Essi and midfielder Alex Rodriguez for defender Marcello Castro and midfielder Edward Campbell. The team would later bring on midfielders Sameth Al-Basith and Robert Murphy.
In the 80th minute the substitutions would pay off. Murphy, with his fresh legs, picked up the ball deep in his own half, beat CFC’s star defender Pat Boucher, who recently appeared for the New England Revolution Reserves, and got himself on a breakaway. Matthew Sangeloty stopped Murphy’s shot, but Rodriguez was there to put away the rebound for his third goal of the season.
Nils Carlson made three saves to get the shutout for the Fury, improving his goals against average to a stunning 0.692 with six shutouts over 13 games.
CFC Azul finishes their season at the Vermont Voltage on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Fury, having already clinched the Division, finish off their season at home against the Western Mass Pioneers. The Fury then open the playoffs at home against the second place GPS Portland Phoenix on Tuesday, July 17, at 7 p.m.
(Highlights Courtesy Ottawa Fury)