HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – As preparations were being made for the title celebration of the New York Cosmos, the players of Ottawa Fury FC lined up together one-by-one to ascend to a stage to receive their runners’ up medals. Awaiting them was head coach Marc Dos Santos, who took the chance to hug the members of a team so close to his heart just one more time.
Taking part in the club’s first NASL title game in a short two-year history, Dos Santos and Fury FC were defeated, 3-2, by the New York Cosmos on Sunday night at Shuart Stadium. Reduced to 10 men early in the second half, Fury FC battled back twice through Tom Heinemann, but proved to be overmatched by a Gaston Cellerino hat-trick.
For Dos Santos, that was nothing to be ashamed of. Citing the talent of the Cosmos midfield, Fury FC said that the Cosmos were the better team on Sunday, earning the title as deserving champions. With that being said, if Fury FC was going to go out with a loss Sunday night, Dos Santos is glad that it all occurred in the manner that it did.
“We lost the final against the New York Cosmos, against a very, very strong team,” Dos Santos said after the loss. “My guys were champions all year and they lost like champions. They have to get out of here with their head high.
“You have an Ottawa Fury that is dealing with counter attacks from New York. You have an Ottawa Fury that has a fantastic attitude and character and is able to score two goals in New York with 10 men. It shows that the personality of this team from the beginning of the year. If you have to lose, you lose like champions, and this is what we did.”
Even with the loss, Dos Santos’ Fury FC proved to be the darlings of the NASL season. After slumping to a ninth-place finish in the Spring Season, Fury FC battled in the Fall Season, losing just one game en route to a Fall Season title, the club’s first ever trophy.
The success, for many, was a bit of a surprise. Far from the league’s wealthiest team, Fury FC was always going to be an underdog, with Dos Santos going so far as to say that there are players on the Cosmos that make more than his entire team.
Dos Santos sees the Cosmos as an example, one that proves the league can get world class talent. However, Dos Santos won’t be around to see it.
Sunday’s finale would prove to be Dos Santos’ last in charge of Fury FC, as the Canadian coach departs for what has been a frequently reported assistant coaching gig with Sporting KC. Coming so soon after a loss, Dos Santos joked that the situation is “not a suspense movie,” and that further details will be announced by Friday.
“I feel that I’m a believer and I feel that God puts you in the right place at the right time,” Dos Santos said. “I’ll tell you this: I have to move on. It’s time to move on and maybe in 10 years, I’ll be back with the Ottawa Fury, I don’t know.
“I don’t know the future, but I just think that now in my life personally I have to have another challenge. I’m a guy of challenges and I get bored easily and I need another challenge now.”
That decision doesn’t come easy for Dos Santos. Charged with building Fury FC from the ground up as an expansion franchise, Dos Santos will certainly be leaving some special memories behind in Ottawa.
From the team’s inaugural game through Sunday’s finale, Dos Santos has seen the club’s fan base skyrocket. Last week’s NASL semifinal saw nearly 10,000 fans fill TD Place, while a group of Fury FC fans was seen in Shuart Stadium in Sunday’s finale.
It may have not been a fully-fitting goodbye for a coach recognized as the league’s Coach of the Year this season, but it certainly served as a special moment for a coach that will miss everything and everyone involved with Fury FC.
“I’ve been in successful groups — Montreal Impact 2009-10, Palmeiras with that group was fantastic. This is the best group of men I’ve had,” Dos Santos said. “They’re fantastic men. I don’t even have a doubt that all of them are going to be successful in their lives after playing because they have a fantastic attitude. They push each other up and there’s big friendship in the group.
“I’m very proud to have coached a team like that. The only reason we were able to win the Fall Season and be in the final is really because we had a group of guys that were absolutely fantastic.”