While the season is done for Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps, Ottawa Fury FC is on the verge of capping off a spectacular year with a title.
The Fury take on the New York Cosmos on Sunday in the championship game of the NASL, soccer's second tier in North America.
The game, at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., is a matchup of the North American Soccer League's top teams. The Cosmos (5-0-5) went undefeated in winning the league's spring season while Ottawa (13-1-6) topped the fall season standings.
The two teams tied for first in the combined standings with 15-4-11 records and a goal difference of plus-19. But the Cosmos got home-field advantage thanks to a superior goals total.
The final marks the soccer swan song for New York’s two Spanish stars: 38-year-old Raul and 39-year-old Marcos Senna, who are both retiring.
Raul makes more than the entire Ottawa roster, according to Fury coach Marc Dos Santos.
Both teams enter the final on a roll.
Ottawa has lost just once in 26 games and is unbeaten in 13 (8-0-5) since dropping a 2-1 decision Aug. 15 to Minnesota United, the team it beat by the same score in extra time in the playoff semifinals before a NASL post-season record crowd of 9,346 at Ottawa's TD Place.
"It's been a pretty incredible run ... it's really something special to be part of," said fullback Ryan Richter, a former Toronto FC player.
The Cosmos have won five straight and are unbeaten in six.
Richter has been part of a stingy defence that yielded a league-low 23 goals over the spring and fall seasons.
Ottawa started the same backline of Richter, Rafael Alves, Colin Falvey and Canadian Mason Trafford for more than 20 games in front of goalkeeper Romuald Peiser. Captain Richie Ryan sat in front of the back four, helping shield the defence.
Controversially Ottawa will be without veteran midfielder Julian de Guzman, who is away on international duty.
"It's a really important game for him with Canada, so we respect that," said Richter. "My only question would be I'd have to ask NASL why they would schedule the final during a FIFA (international) date?
"They want to keep growing as a league, then they're going to get good players like Julian who won't be able to play on these weeks."
Ottawa, in its second year in the league, has already picked up plenty of hardware this season.
Dos Santos, who is headed to an undisclosed job in MLS, was named the league's coach of the year.
"I've been with two MLS teams and I've seen some good coaches," said Richter. "For me, Marc is a top, top coach, he's an MLS coach."
Peiser, meanwhile, won the NASL Golden Glove. The 36-year-old from France compiled a 648-minute scoreless streak while finishing the season with a 0.76 goals-against average. He gave up just 22 goals in 29 games.
"He's a master organizer ... It's almost like having another coach on the field," said Richter.
Canadian defender Drew Beckie was chosen the league's humanitarian of the year. And Ottawa picked up the league's Fair Play Award after picking up one red card and 45 yellows in 30 games.
The Fury roster also features former Toronto FC forward Andrew Wiedeman and Montreal Impact midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, who is on loan to Ottawa.
Others with MLS experience include Beckie (Columbus), midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Montreal, New York Red Bulls) and forwards Tom Heinemann (Columbus, Vancouver) and Paulo Junior (Real Salt Lake).
It's the first Canada-U.S. NASL final since 1984 since the Chicago Sting beat the Toronto Blizzard 3-2 on aggregate in the league's heyday.
The Cosmos are seeking their record seventh NASL title.
The teams played three times in the regular season, with each team winning once with one tie.
FC Edmonton is the other Canadian squad in the 11-team NASL. The Eddies (9-13-8) finished seventh in the combined standings.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press