May 1, 2015; By Mustefa
The breeding ground to any professional soccer club lies in its Academy. With few exceptions, namely rich clubs in large European leagues, teams worldwide make use of youth setups as a means to discover and develop talent which they attempt to subsequently promote to the first team. Such setups may offer a financial incentive for teams to develop players, as well-groomed footy stars may be sold to clubs that play in higher leagues. Simply put, successful Academy setups for clubs not in the ilk of Manchester City keep them competitive on the pitch, and contribute to financial viability in between matchdays.
As Fury FC supporters, these facts reflect the importance of our own club’s Academy. In many ways, Ottawa Fury has been a massive breeding ground for local talent, even before it joined the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2014. Since 2005, Fury mens programs have been providing a place for skilled local players to compete in leagues such as USL’s Premier Development League (PDL), offering opportunities to kickstart a career in the sport. In the last few months, the club announced its Academy’s presence in the Premiere League de Soccer du Quebec (PLSQ). From a supporter’s perspective, this provides an excellent opportunity for contributing to the growth of both Ottawa Fury FC and Canadian soccer as a whole.
For Canada, a largely developing footy nation, the PLSQ’s importance cannot be understated. A growing division three league, it is a provincial circuit, situated below MLS (div 1) and NASL (div 2) in the soccer pyramid. Like League 1 Ontario, it is a standards-based league that exists with the purpose of providing opportunities for Canadian players to develop their skill-set and, ideally, graduate to higher levels of football. Frankly, it is a league well worth supporting, as the basis of soccer’s improvement within Canada.
It all started almost five years ago, with the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) looking into the viability of domestic leagues. Such a task was outsourced to a consulting group led by James Easton, and resulted in the creatively named ‘Easton Report’. Several key recommendations were put forth by the report, a select number of which were made public. Through the vast array of logic, analysis, and long explanations, a central theme emerged from publicly shared aspects of the report: the basis of Canada’s soccer pyramid should be a series of provincial division three leagues in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Since the release of this report, two of the four provinces have indeed established leagues. Quebec was the first, wasting almost no time in establishing the PLSQ.
What does all this mean for Ottawa Fury FC? As supporters, the league is a welcome addition to our club’s repertoire, as it provides a priceless atmosphere for our Academy players to develop. In addition to possessing excellent skill, gaining playing time in a competitive atmosphere develops player awareness abilities which, at professional levels, differentiate those who fulfill their potential from those who fizzle out. Exposing our youth to such an environment allows them to acquire talent which makes them better professionals on the first team and beyond.
With a competitive atmosphere come competitive clubs, all of whom look for methods to improve themselves. Clubs in the PLSQ (and League 1 Ontario) serve as the start of a talented player’s progression through the Canadian soccer pyramid. From the Ottawa Fury’s perspective, what better opportunity exists to study or scout talent on these teams, potentially looking for transfer targets? Skilled players on opposing teams will be lured by the idea of starring in the NASL, and clubs looking for financial stability will be enticed to sell their best players. The presence of Fury FC Academy provides the league with the viability of connections to larger competitions, while benefiting Fury through both excellent competition and access to talent within the division three circuit.
Regional division three leagues provide a further, distinct, benefit to clubs within Canada: the opportunity for loan agreements between clubs of differing sizes. Fury can, for example, loan a young first team player to clubs within the PLSQ, with the purpose of providing competitive minutes which aid in development. Clubs receiving such players benefit from a surge in talent within the team, as well as a chance to market their temporary acquisitions. Taking this one step further, a league such as the PLSQ provides a final opportunity for Canadian players whose careers are stalled to reboot their fortunes. As with emerging talent, Fury will benefit from first-hand access to monitoring such players, with the potential of signing them into the NASL side. Historically, Pierre-Rudolphe Mayard is an example of talent which, while playing in the PLSQ, was able to later sign with Fury FC. Andres Fresenga, who starred with Ottawa in 2014, has since signed with Woodbridge Strikers in League 1 Ontario. Should he manage to revamp his skillset, an opportunity to reconnect with the Fury may develop.
Supporting Fury FC Academy as they trek through the PLSQ is the foundation to supporting the first team. Matches that take place, on a less visible scale, at Carleton University, TD Place, and Algonquin College Soccer Complex, are as much worth supporting as any investment into the Fury’s future. In supporting our Ottawa Fury FC, we will be provided with the opportunity to witness a league looking to ingrain itself in our country’s soccer landscape. Briefly, some background into PLSQ and its clubs:
It is currently a Montreal-focused league, with slight expansion into the national capital region.
Created in 1986, they have expanded from 200 players to over two thousand in 2007. Having been built upon a philosophy of community involvement, they are a welcome addition to the Canadian soccer pyramid. An emphasis on coaching education allows them to transmit excellent technical knowledge to their players.
The league’s eastern-most club, it is located off the main Montreal island. A notable player in their squad is Eduardo Sebrango, who featured in 200 games with the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps in NASL and USL-1 (division two, preceding the current NASL), in addition to 12 MLS matches with the Montreal Impact. In 2008, he scored two goals in the Voyageurs Cup (Amway Canadian Championship) and helped the Whitecaps win the USL-1 Championship.
CS Mont-Royal Outrement
Having won the PLSQ in 2013 and finishing third in 2014, they are a team which is difficult to play. As they head into their 10th season in professional environments, they look to continue upon the legacy kick-started by a start in the League de Soccer Elite Quebec (which is currently one division below the PLSQ).
A team which joined the PLSQ in 2014, they made their presence felt by winning the league. While their expansion success surprised the Quebec footy world, they were returned to reality following a 4-0 aggregate loss to TFC Academy in an annual inter-provincial Championship between League 1 Ontario and PLSQ champions. The side in grey and black look to defend their championship as they head into the 2015 season.
With geographical proximity to the nation’s capital, FC Gatineau joins Fury FC Academy in being the lone non-Montreal league clubs. Separated only by the Ottawa river, a natural environment for a derby between the sides exists. Supporters on both sides of the river, filled with passion emerging from history with the cities, can make for memorable matches between the two sides. Having joined the league in 2013, Gatineau look to build win the title after finishin 4th in 2013 and 2nd in 2014,
Fury FC Academy’s 2015 expansion cousins, they look to add stability to the emerging league. While the PLSQ chose to feature an additional Montreal team in the latest round of expansion, options exist for expansion to Quebec City and beyond. Lakeshore FC (based in Kirkland, Montreal) benefits the league through reduced travel expenses, but stunts its size and promotional potential in areas outside of Montreal.
Fury FC Academy
Our club, the highest-profile in the PLSQ, generates excellent attention to the league while providing a stable franchise. Highlighted by Jacob Schroeter, who has trained with the first team and played in last year's friendly against Glasgow Rangers, it is a roster filled with hungry youth looking to make their mark with the Fury senior side and Canadian soccer. Under the watchful gaze of Phillip Dos Santos, they look to grace the league with an entertaining brand of football.