Fourth time fortunate? That'll have to be the Ottawa Fury's rallying cry now.
The Fury's dream of a W-League crown remains on hold after a powerhouse New Jersey Wildcats side blanked Ottawa 3-0 in the North American championship match last night in West Windsor, N.J.
Add a second-place finish to the third and fourth the Fury have recorded in three consecutive shots at the league's Final Four tourney. If anything, they headed home today more determined than ever to climb the final step in 2006.
"There's only one left," Fury defender Marie-Eve Nault said after last night's disappointing setback. "Every year, we feel we're getting a step closer. A lot of the girls are already talking about coming back next year and (winning the title)."
The Fury hoped to make the two-step leap this weekend. But the Wildcats -- who lost last year's final 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps -- wouldn't be denied in front of an overflow crowd at their home pitch at Mercer Community College.
England international Rachel Unitt gave New Jersey the only goal it needed in the 13th minute, pouncing on a loose ball in the penalty area and driving a shot past Fury 'keeper Taryn Swiatek.
Rhian Wilkinson had perhaps the best chance of the match for the Fury about 20 minutes later, but Wildcats 'keeper Karina LeBlanc dove to stop the Ottawa sniper from point-blank range.
The backbreaker for the Fury came in the 63rd minute, when the Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick after Nault hauled down Heather O'Reilly in the area. Tourney MVP Kacey White made no mistake from the spot, and the mountain simply got too high for the Fury to climb.
"That was really deflating," said Nault. "We had the momentum before then ... we felt we could get one goal back, but when you have to try to get two, that's a little harder to do."
The Fury couldn't consistently penetrate a rock-solid New Jersey defence, anchored by U.S. national teamer and W-League defender of the year Cat Reddick. The Wildcats allowed only three goals all season in front of LeBlanc, the Canadian national team's starting 'keeper (Swiatek is the team's other 'keeper).
"It's no disgrace to lose to (the Wildcats)," said Fury CEO/owner John Pugh. "They're arguably the best club team in the world."