Having a week and a half off at the start of the regular MLS season isn't the best. But bye-weeks are a common occurrence throughout the MLS season, and we're just going to have to live with it. Rather than watch some other sub-par sport, why not indulge your soccer passion by watching some of our other local squads in action!
NASL: Ottawa Fury FC
Firstly, le Fury d'Ottawa (the Ottawa Fury), the NASL team based in Ottawa is kicking off their second season in style - by training in the snow. Now, before you hockey fans jump on me and say that Ottawa and Montréal are as different as night and day and not 'local', I'm going to let you in on a secret: I live in Ottawa. I live in Ottawa's East end, where the majority of people are Francophone, and let me tell you, it feels a lot like Montréal here to me. We're more similar than you think, and it's barely two hours from Place TD to Stade Saputo.
Most of the city is bilingual, and the downtown is littered with art deco architecture and pubs that would make the most staunch patron of rue Ste-Catherine feel right at home. So when Place TD, Ottawa's beautiful new stadium in the Glebe (our version of Le Plateau) was being built and the city decided to pursue a professional sports team, it was to Montréal that they looked for help.
Ottawa's head coach, Marc Dos Santos, was with the Impact when they won their last championship in the A-League. Montréal Impact stalwarts Siniša Ubiparipović and Tony Donatelli count themselves among their top goalscorers. Montréal Impact Academy graduates Pierre Rudolph-Mayard and Zakaria Messoudi both earned time with the Fury in their inaugural 2014 season, and Longueuil native Phillipe Davies rounds out the regional contribution to the squad. The Ottawa Fury also boast a large domestic Canadian contingent on the roster.
The Fury set an NASL attendance record with the opening of their new stadium, packing 16,000 eager souls from across Ottawa's bilingual environment. The Bytown Boys (@BytownBoysSC) and Stony Monday Riot (@StonyMondayRiot), the passionate local supporters groups counted both Ottawa and Gatineau natives among their stalwarts, and in the supporters section the Québec, Franco-Ontarien and Ontario flags waived proudly over every game. No matter your colours, you'll fit in at Place TD.
Like Montréal in the MLS, they are the only team in the NASL to feature bilingual French/English announcements and team communications. If you ever get the chance, come see a game here - it's truly a spectacle to behold. Oh, and last Friday they beat Toronto FC II in a pre-season match. If there's one thing Ottawa and Montréal can both agree on, it's that beating up on Toronto is wonderful. The Fury would also laugh at the MLS teams in the US complaining about a little snow:
USL PRO : F.C. Montréal
Secondly, there is F.C. Montréal; the Impact Academy team. At time of writing, they are boarding a place to Florida to play an exhibition match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL. F.C. Montréal play at a mix of Stade Saputo's training fields and Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard, and matches are free to attend.
Also, their players are very active on Twitter and other social media platforms, so make sure you give F.C.Montréal goalkeeper coach Jack Stern (@JackSternGK) a follow to keep in the loop, or any of the other guys on the squad or technical staff for that matter. They have a unique perspective on every Impact match.
This is their inaugural season in the United Soccer Leagues (USL), but last year the Impact Academy tore up the player development leagues of North America, earning itself a spot in a few championships. They play good, fast soccer, and in the coming years we'll be seeing more of these kids on the senior squad, or with other NASL or MLS teams. All their games are broadcast freely on the USL website. Going to (or watching) one or two of their games is a must if you're starved of Impact action.
PLSQ: Nos équipes, notre soccer!
Lastly, the Première ligue du soccer de Québec kicks off next week. This league is still in its infancy, and this year has recently expanded to seven teams; five in metro Montréal, one in Gatineau and one in Ottawa. Games are competitive, provide a lively atmosphere and are all streamed free on the website (http://www.plsq.ca/fr/index.html). Each match, especially games featuring last year's winners, F.C. Gatineau, are a blast to watch. Check out last year's promotional video if you don't believe me:
This isn't a comprehensive list of soccer games, tournaments and teams in our region. After all, the Women's World Cup is coming to both Ottawa and Montréal this summer, our Women's National Team is competing in the Cyprus Cup this week and our university and Cégep teams are all competitive as well, with Université de Montréal consistently placing in the top 3 in CIS rankings.
Soccer in Montréal, Ottawa and French-Canada more generally is taking off. It's the most popular youth sport, and it's garnering more and more attention. As it grows, there will be more opportunity for fans like us to find new outlets for our passion. This weekend, there is certainly no shortage of soccer to fill your appetite on a bye-week.