OTTAWA—Pro sports in Canada’s capital city took a “giant leap” forward on the 45th anniversary of American astronauts landing on the moon this past weekend with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and Ottawa Fury of the North American Soccer League (NASL) inaugurating TD Place.
TD Place at Lansdowne Park just a few kilometers south of the downtown core in Ottawa hadn’t seen CFL action since 2005. The $500 million facility was a project in the works for several years and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was always confident that it would work out saying in a video on cfl.ca, “We always knew there’s a strong fan base…This team will be successful for decades to come.”
The Redblacks got their first franchise victory and took over first place in the CFL’s East Division with a riveting 18–17 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday, July 18.
The Redblacks were led by kicker Brett Maher’s six field goals and a staunch defense that picked off Argos’ QB Ricky Ray twice and limited Toronto to one touchdown. The game also had seven lead changes.
The key play to set up the game-winning field goal was Henry Burris’ 44-yard pass down the sidelines to Kierrie Johnson.
Looks like the Toronto–Ottawa rivalry is off to a flying start in the CFL. The sellout crowd of 24,000, which included Prime Minster Stephen Harper surely wouldn’t have it any other way.
Fury Fall Short
Last Sunday, the Ottawa Fury played their first game at TD Place, but lost in an exciting encounter 1–0 to the New York Cosmos. The Fury set an NASL record with 14,593 fans in attendance.
The game, which could have seen five or six goals, was decided by a 37th minute strike from New York’s Sebastian Guenzatti. Ottawa’s Omar Jarun misplayed a clearance straight to Guenzatti who made no mistake.
Ottawa had its chances but New York’s goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer was outstanding. He stopped Tommy Heinemann twice in the first half and then got some big time help from his defender when he was out of position in the second half for a shot by Tony Donatelli.
It was a spirited effort by the Fury, but ultimately the Cosmos were able to hang on and deserved the three points. The Cosmos continued to show that they are one of the strongest sides in the NASL.
But the attendance at TD Place last Sunday shows that soccer too has a massive following in Ottawa, just as CFL has been eagerly awaited for nine years.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports