OTTAWA — Head coach Paul Dalglish couldn’t have asked for more from his Ottawa Fury.
Jonny Steele and Paulo Junior both scored as Ottawa upset the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Wednesday in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal at TD Place.
The second leg of the series is scheduled for June 8 at BC Place Stadium. The aggregate winner will advance to the championship final against the winner of the other semifinal between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC. Toronto defeated Montreal 4-2 in its first leg of the semifinal on Wednesday.
Hosting and beating a club from the higher-tier MLS was a first in Fury history and the 9,057 on hand will not soon forget the home team’s dominating performance.
"I thought we were fantastic," said Dalglish. "(Wednesday) you saw that if we do it collectively and we work together we can do it against MLS opposition as well. Really, really pleased."
The defending champion Whitecaps appeared to get caught off guard by the Fury pressure right from the start and struggled to make adjustments.
"We had a young group and it was a challenge for them and I think some of them got a little bit surprised in the first half in the way of the tempo of the game," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "All credit to Ottawa, they deserved to win (Wednesday) because they won their individual battles. They played the way they like to play."
The Fury held no illusions coming into the game and accepted the role of underdogs, but were confident, played with poise and were rewarded.
"This was the first time we played an MLS team and we got a victory so no matter what happens next it will always be something to look back on," said keeper Romuald Peiser. "Now we need to be ambitious and realize that it’s half time between the two games and we have 90 very complicated minutes awaiting us in Vancouver."
Steele’s first half goal in the third minute held up as the winner. Trailing 2-0 the Whitecaps were looking to get back in the game, but Peiser was solid.
Vancouver’s best chance came at the 54th minute as Nicolas Mezquida headed it, but Peiser punched the ball to deflect it over the bar.
Peiser made another huge save off a free kick late in the second half and an incredible save during extra time on Octavio Rivero.
"We played a courageous game," said Peiser. "We left it all out there on the field and we can be proud. We did something historic on this night."
Midway through the second half, 15-year-old Alphonso Davies made his first-team debut with the Whitecaps.
"I felt really confident," said Davies. "First touches on the ball were good. I wanted the ball more and it was a really great experience for me."
Ottawa knew the perfect scenario would be to score early and they executed perfectly. Steele gave the Fury the early lead scoring in the third minute with a great strike beating Paolo Tornaghi for a 1-0 lead and never looked back.
"(Getting the lead) was massive," said Carl Haworth, who assisted on the goal. "As soon as we scored the fans were right behind us and gave us that little bit of extra energy to keep pushing and keep going."
Opening the scoring got the crowd in the game, but Dalglish admitted it was also a little nerve wracking.
"We were sitting on the bench and speaking and you almost didn’t want to score that early. It can almost make you sit back a little bit."
Ottawa had a number of solid scoring chances through the first half and extended its lead at the 42nd minute.
Haworth took a great pass and looked to score off the header, but Tornaghi made the save. Junior grabbed the rebound and had a wide-open left side to give the Fury a 2-0 lead.
Notes: Ottawa will be without captain Julian de Guzman and Marcel De Jong who were called up by the Canadian men’s team.