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No questioning Mehrassa’s Fury-ous heart

LINEUP CARD COLUMN Lots of action, lots of goals, but not lots of bums in seats. The Prince George Fury have two home weekends in the books, four games to talk about the early returns at the gate, and in the standings.

LINEUP CARD COLUMN

Lots of action, lots of goals, but not lots of bums in seats.

The Prince George Fury have two home weekends in the books, four games to talk about the early returns at the gate, and in the standings.

Let's start with the better news first. In this case, the better news is the .333 winning percentage.

The team, thanks to blowout wins over the Wenatchee Fire on Saturday, has its first wins and a 2-4 record, good for fourth in the five-team Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League. The Saskatoon Accelerators are first at 4-2, followed by Calgary FC (3-1), the Edmonton Drillers (3-3), and the Fury. Winnipeg is last at 1-3.

There is, not surprisingly, an asterisk to go with the Fury's first victim. The Fire, which had all hands on deck for an 11-10 edging of Prince George down south, did not bring their top players north for Saturday's trouncings -- 14-1 and 13-3.

There is also the word that in the four Fire games played in Canada this season, the combined score has been 67-8 against Wenatchee -- and the Fire scored four and allowed 27 goals at CN Centre, meaning the other two games ended with a combined Fire deficit of 40-4.

Ouch.

While it won't be as easy for the Fury this weekend in games in Edmonton and Calgary, the first-year team does have something to build on.

And, chances are very good the Fury won't play in front of crowds as big as the estimated 800 per game that turned out on Saturday. Even if you go with the announced attendance, the two games drew a sum of 2,244 -- and that was roughly the number owner John Mehrassa said he needed every game to make it work.

That issue, the economics that will tell the tale on whether this franchise has a long-term future, is as much the story as the lights on the scoreboard.

"Those who come are great, they are into it and enjoying the action," Mehrassa said Sunday.

"Originally, the idea was for this thing to be long-term. I believe with the players we have available, with the academy and UNBC, it will be a great opportunity for the kids of this city who love soccer. First and foremost for me, it's to make it work. The rest is secondary -- I want this to work for the community."

The next home date won't be an easy draw, either. It's Sunday, Feb. 14, and Valentine's Day is tough to snare fans in any league -- wives and girlfriends can demand at least one day without sports, can't they?

There is one big reason Mehrassa gave this a go -- so his sons Andrew and Matt could play at home. Close behind was to be able to have Matt and Andrew take the floor with friends they learned the game with in youth soccer, many of those situations with John as coach.

"There were times on Saturday when the five players on the floor were from the same team growing up together," said Mehrassa.

"My wife and I were noticing, looking at a line of players we coached since they were 10. It was awesome to see that, and that's what this is about."

Oddly, the focus on local players may be part of what is hurting the crowd count. Using the city's best appeals to their friends and family, but cutting a wider marketing swath means bringing in an established pro player who will generate interest and curiosity.

"We were close to bringing in someone like that, but it didn't work out," said Mehrassa.

"We got into the league late, that played a part. I've still discussed that with (head coach Sipho Sibiya) and we want to be as competitive as possible. Other teams in the league have pro players, so if we have to bring some others in to attract the crowd and be more competitive, then absolutely."

So far, being competitive isn't the concern because the four setbacks have been by respectable margins. It's those other losses, and time will tell -- Mehrassa's heart appears to be clearly in the right place. His wallet? He'll want to keep a close eye on that.