With fans packed in Starlight Stadium, Pacific FC shined in their opening round of the Canadian Championship with a historic win over Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was the biggest match yet in the Langford Canadian Premier League (CPL) team’s three-year history. The preliminary-round 4-3 win eliminates the MLS team from the Canadian Championship and secures a quarterfinal berth for Pacific FC. The 13-team tournament’s winner gets to raise the Voyageurs Cup and earns a spot in the 2022 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
The Whitecaps rolled onto the Island as the on-paper favourite. But in his pregame presser, former Whitecap and PFC coach Pa-Modou Kah said the Pacific’s mission was to win.
“We’re just three years old and this is one of the games that we have been waiting for and to go out and perform like the boys did, hopefully, the crowd goes home (and) gets a feeling of we want more,” he said after the game.
PFC struck first just minutes in on a Terran Campbell penalty kick, but the Whitecaps answered with a tying goal minutes later. The Tridents regained the lead in the 27th minute, as a ‘Caps defender’s clearing attempt bounced off Manny Aparicio’s shin to a fallen teammate who, while on the ground, got the ball back to Aparicio. A cut to the middle of the box followed by a cross-body strike put the home team up 2-1.
After the middle third of the match saw both sides play strong defense, Josh Heard got the ball for the Pacific on the left side. After shaking a Whitecaps player off his back, the Victoria-raised Heard stutter stepped into the box. He exercised patience and had many of the sold-out crowd in agony as they screamed for him to shoot. He then put the ball in the bottom left corner to give PFC a 3-1 lead.
The Whitecaps again answered quickly, but the Pacific notched another with 15 minutes remaining and held on for a 4-3 win. The almost 5,000 fans in attendance gave their team a lengthy standing ovation for the Island footie feat.
“These are the nights that you play for,” Heard said, after the game. “It’s a special moment to be able to play in front of a home crowd like this.”
Kah said the high-stakes B.C. matchup was a testament to what the CPL can offer, which is elite soccer right here in Canada. He said the match and players like Heard are an example of why it’s important to keep growing the game for young Canadian players.
With the win, the Pacific will now face the Calgary Cavalry next month in the Canadian Championship quarterfinals.
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