The North American Soccer League has featured a four-club playoff format for the past two seasons, and the New York Cosmos, Minnesota United, and Fort Lauderdale Strikers have all been a part of the post season in both those seasons. The fourth club to join the party in 2015 was Ottawa Fury FC, who had an extremely disappointing spring, before topping the table in the fall, and nearly winning a NASL title.
Ottawa's success came largely from their amazing defensive record, allowing just 23 goals all season. That defense wasn't enough to overcome a dismal offensive output during the spring campaign, in which they found the back of the net just five times, but during the fall season, Ottawa managed to strike 37 times, making them one of the more consistent attacks in the league.
Much of Ottawa's success can be attributed to Head Coach Marc dos Santos, whose ability to organize the league's best defense while managing to come up with enough goals in attack turned the Fury into a club that nobody looked forward to playing. Waking the Red certainly took note, and his departure to take over a USL side will leave Ottawa with a massive hole to fill.
Meanwhile, Tom Heinemann, whose prolific second half helped fuel the Fury's title push, appears to be leaving the club as well. Where Heinemann will eventually end up is anyone's guess, but if it's not Ottawa (which it still could be), there will be a massive hole to fill up front in order to avoid looking like the offensively from the spring.
Heinemann doesn't appear to be the only key player that could be leaving, however, as Best XI defender Rafael Alves' thank you message at the end of the season sounded more like 'goodbye' than 'see you in the spring'. Like Heinemann, it's still possible that Alves returns to the Fury next season, but it seems logical that his stellar play may well have priced him out of Ottawa's budget.
Dos Santos' replacement will have at least two core players back for the 2016 season, as both Richie Ryan and Romuald Peiser are under contract for next season. Neither of that pair are likely capable of carrying the Fury on their own, however, no matter how well they played in 2015.
Ottawa are unique among expansion sides from the past two years, in that their success on the pitch has actually outpaced their success at the gate. The front office has shown a knack for finding undervalued assets that fit well together, and unless the club's budget increases significantly this winter, that ability will need to be on display again in order to make it two seasons in a row with postseason soccer in Ottawa. If nothing else, it will be fascinating to watch how they handle the early success, as they try to avoid the sort of dropoff we've seen from title contenders in the past.