Israeli midfielder Idan Vered has quickly settled at Ottawa Fury FC of the North American Soccer League, where he hopes to kick-start his career after a frustrating start to the season at Red Star Belgrade..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ottawa, Canada, was probably the last place Idan Vered thought he would find himself this season.
After realizing his dream of playing in Europe by joining Red Star Belgrade in Serbia last summer, the 26-year-old Israeli midfielder believed he was on the verge of achieving great things.
His continental career got off to an encouraging start, but matters quickly deteriorated after he refused a move to Kazakhstan which would have earned Red Star around one million euros. The former Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa player found himself outcast and with very few options with the transfer windows shut in Israel and most European leagues.
Fast-forward two months, and Vered says he is living a dream after Ottawa Fury FC of the North American Soccer League (NASL) came to his rescue.
With the leagues in China, Russia and North America his only options, Vered jumped at an offer to join Ottawa for the Spring Season.
“I learned that in life you can’t make too many plans,” Vered told The Jerusalem Post. “If you told me last summer that I’d be here I wouldn’t have believed it. I spent seven or eight months with Red Star Belgrade, but I was forced to leave due to problems which had nothing to do with sport. I found myself in March without a team and with the transfer window already shut in Israel and most of the European leagues.
“Sitting at home until the summer wouldn’t have been good for my career so after checking my options I saw I could play in China, Russia or the US. After a week, I received a call from an agent who works in the US and he told me that while the MLS teams all have full squads, Ottawa has a new coach and he wants me to join on a short-term deal.”
The NASL began play in 2011 and is descended from the North American Soccer League that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, but which ceased operation in 1984. The league plays a split season, with 10 games in the spring and 20 in the fall. The seasonal champions qualify automatically for The Championship, which is basically a four-team playoff. The two other teams with the best combined point totals also advance to the postseason.
The NASL has the official designation as the second division in the US soccer pyramid (with Major League Soccer acting as the first division).
The designations are currently under discussion because the US (and Canada) have no promotion/ relegation system, which makes these standards largely superfluous.
The Ottawa Fury are one of two Canadian teams in the league (FC Edmonton is the other). Ottawa is in its third year in the league and progressed all the way to the championship game last November, losing to the New York Cosmos, 3-2.
After coming on as a substitute in Ottawa’s first match of the season, a 3-0 loss to Cosmos, Vered was already inserted into the starting lineup for the games against Indy Eleven and Carolina RailHawks, scoring a goal in the 1-1 draw with Indy and being named to the NASL’s Team of the Week last week.
“I think this worked well for both me and the club,” explained Vered.
“I will be in good shape entering the summer while they added a player they would have usually not been able to have.
“Being part of American sports is a great experience,” he added. “It is a realization of a huge dream. Soccer is really picking up here, with a lot of players coming in from Europe. I’ve been living a dream since arriving here. The work ethic at the club and the quality of life here is something I hadn’t encountered beforehand.
“At the end of the day, everything happened for the best. I was feeling down two months ago not having anywhere to go, but now I’m in the midst of a new dream. All that is left to do is to enjoy myself.”
Vered has his sights set on playing in the MLS, but has learned not to plan too far ahead.
“Now that I’m here my first goal is to play well. If I play well then I hope I can move on to the MLS,” he said. “But you never know what might happen. I may go back to Europe or return to Israel or end up remaining in Ottawa until the end of the season here in November. I’m taking one match at a time. I just hope to remain healthy and happy and whatever happens after that will be good.”
The slight-of-build Vered hopes to grow as a player in Ottawa, especially in the physical aspect of the game, which he says is the first thing that stood out when he joined the team.
Despite being earmarked as one of the most talented Israeli players of his generation, Vered has yet to feature for the senior Israel national team, a dream he hopes to realize in the near future once he plays on a consistent basis. First and foremost though, he is focused on repaying Ottawa for handing him an opportunity, while placing himself in the best possible position ahead of next season.
“Last summer I ended a contract at Haifa and I had options at Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem and other clubs. However, I wasn’t interested in any of them as I was desperate to play abroad,” noted Vered. “Now I have no intention of going anywhere at any cost and I’m not ruling out anything. Everything depends on me.
“I have a great stage here to prove I’m a good player and