In the last 10 days, Pacific FC has made 3 solid signings, bringing in 2 former Ottawa Fury players, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere and Jamar Dixon, last week, before adding 2019 CPL standout, Marco Bustos, this Thursday. Here is a look at what these 3 can bring to the Island in 2020.
Pacific FC may have just acquired their X-Factor.
After weeks of rumours surrounding a possible link between Pacific FC and Marco Bustos, the marriage finally became a reality on Thursday, as the now-former Valour man inked a deal with the Tridents. Signed through 2020, he brings another legit attacking threat to a team with some solid offensive punch already in its ranks, putting the rest of the Candian Premier League on notice heading into the start of the season.
Along with the recent additions of centre back Thomas Meilleur-Giguere and central midfielder Jamar Dixon, without mentioning the arrival of a new head coach, Pa Modou Kah, Pacific is loading up for a strong 2nd season in the CPL. After falling short of expectations in year 1, they’re stepping up in year 2 in order to surround their young core with some quality pieces, with Bustos just being the latest piece to that puzzle.
“Marco Bustos is a talented player that excites the crowd and has the ability to change a game at any moment,” Kah said to describe Bustos in a press release. “He’s a true professional and we are happy to add a player of his quality to the Pacific family.”
With these 3 new signings now in the fold, it pushes Pacific up to 13 players on their roster, with just over a month until their preseason kicks off on March 1st. They still have lots of work to do, as they still need to bring in over a half-dozen players, but with most of their starters locked up, they are sitting pretty heading into the last full month of the offseason.
But what will Bustos, Meilleur-Giguere and Dixon exactly bring to the Island? Here is a look at what each of these new faces can deliver to Westhills on a consistent basis next season.
Marco Bustos, the X-Factor
Bustos is probably the most interesting of the 3, as he comes to Pacific fresh off a strong second half of the season at Valour, where he really seemed to hit his stride after a slow start. Playing in his hometown of Winnipeg, he seemed to relish the opportunity to perform in front of his friends and family, turning in some solid offensive performances down the stretch.
With Valour enduring a tough offseason, however, he decided to take his talents west, reuniting with someone he knows very well, the new Pacific head coach, Kah. Having come up through the Whitecaps academy, Bustos was a star with Vancouver’s old USL team, Whitecaps FC II, shuttling back and forth between the first team and the second team.
Kah was still playing at that time, so he had the chance to be teammates with him for a couple of years, before he transitioned into an assistant’s coach role with WFCII, so the pair are quite familiar with each other.
Bustos was always seen as one of the potential difference-makers that the Whitecaps first team could hope to benefit from someday, but he never managed to make that jump up from the USL to MLS, always finding himself in that purgatory between the two leagues. He scored 22 goals in 59 games with the 2nd team in the USL, and always seemed on the cusp of pushing up to the 1st team, but that opportunity never materialized for him.
He was probably one of the biggest casualties of the eventual folding of the 2nd team at the end 2017, along with goalkeeper and current Cavalry FC star Marco Carducci, as the Whitecaps just didn’t have the room to keep him around and not play minutes after that.
As a result, they then sent him out on loan to Mexico, before permanently transferring him to Oklahoma in the USL, where he played at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019. He only scored 2 goals and 2 assists throughout his time in Mexico and Oklahoma, unable to meet the pace he scored at with WFC II, leaving many to wonder what had happened.
That led to him signing with Valour a couple of weeks into the CPL season, hence his slower start, as he got adjusted to his new team on the fly. Once he was fully adapted, we saw the old Bustos, however, as he became a creative hub on a Valour team that only scored 30 times in 28 games.
He eventually finished with 7 goals and 3 assists, with 6 of those goals and all 3 of the assists coming in the fall season, as he became one of the premier attacking talents the league had on display. So when it came to offseason time, he was a hotly coveted free agent, hence the competitive sweepstakes that Pacific was fortunate enough to win.
But what exactly does he bring to the Tridents? A few things. He’s a creative midfielder/winger, which fits into exactly what Pacific needs. He can play the right wing, operating as a channel disturber, cutting inside to do his business as a nominal attacking midfielder.
With Pacific having the strong overlapping presence on the right hand side, thanks to Bustos’s former WFC II teammate, Kadin Chung, he’ll be allowed to roam free in the final third, unlocking the space required to unleash his deadly left foot, while also opening up space for teammates to run into.
He averaged 1.76 shots per 90 minutes in 2019, along with a solid 0.26 expected goals and 0.17 expected assists per 90, which should help improve Pacific’s attack in 2020. Along with his 1.72 chances generated per game, and his 83% passing percentage, he fits into Pacific’s mantra of playing a modern brand of possession-based football, something they’ve preached since last year.
While his stats lag slightly behind some of the other premier performers in the country, when you factor in the fact that he was hampered by the lack of preseason and the later start, they do look a lot better. With a full preseason awaiting him on the Island, without mentioning the familiarity that he has with Kah and some of his new teammates from his time at the Whitecaps, Bustos could thrive in the purple and teal next year, which is why Pacific is making a good gamble with this signing.
Here’s a look at him compared to Tristan Borges and Nico Pasquotti, both left-footed wingers who love to score and create from the right side, much like Bustos does. With Borges winning the CPL MVP and Golden Boot ahead of a monumental transfer to the 2nd division in Belgium, while Pasquotti played a big role in helping Cavalry win the Spring and Fall seasons, they are two of the best CPL had to offer last year, and Bustos still matches up pretty well when compared to the pair of wingers.
So keep an eye on the 23-year-old next year. He’s still young, and there’s a reason he only signed a 1-year deal once again in 2020, as he looks to one day make the jump back up to MLS. With Pacific’s array of young talent, he can be the piece to help push them into the upper-echelon of the league, provided they all play to the level they know that they can play at, making this a worthwhile gamble for the Tridents to take.
Dixon and Meilleur-Giguere, snatched away in the nick of time?
With Dixon and Meilleur-Giguere playing their 2019 seasons in Ottawa with the Fury of the USL, a team that folded later on in the year, Pacific was able to take advantage of that, bringing in the pair on free transfers. Meilleur-Giguere technically came from Montreal, who loaned him out to the Fury in 2019, but the Impact declined his option, making him a free agent, while Dixon was left without anything due to the folding of the Ottawa-based club.
It was a pair of signings brought in just at the right time, as well, because by all accounts they seemed to like it in Ottawa, but with the Fury folding, they were attracted by what Pacific had to offer.
Considering that Ottawa just got back their team, this time as the 8th expansion side in the CPL, backed by Spanish giants Athletico Madrid, Meilleur-Giguere and Dixon would have likely been two excellent Canadian signings for them, so it was good timing for Pacific to snatch them when they did.
And they’re getting two interesting profiles in the two Canadians, who at 22 and 30 years old, come to the Island in different phases of their career.
First, the younger one, the spry Meilleur-Giguere, comes with hopes of reviving his MLS and European aspirations. A quality centre back, it was thought he could make the jump up to the league this year, but it seems like he wants another year or two to establish himself and grow as a professional, racking up minutes in a burgeoning circuit before pushing his way up another level.
He was solid for Ottawa last year, helping marshall their backline. With 1.3 interceptions and 5.8 clearances and 0.70 blocks per 90 minutes, he found a way to stop attacks, clearing the danger if necessary. He only had 0.72 tackles/90, but sometimes for a centre back that can be a testament of their defending, which for the smart Meilleur-Giguere, was certainly the case most of the time, supported by the fact that he only picked up 1 yellow card over the course of his 26 appearances.
His most attractive quality, however, at least to the possession-heavy Pacific, is his ability to play with the ball, something he did excellently last season. He had a 76% pass percentage, with many of those passes being progressive, which Kah will certainly love to have on his backline. The big concern will be that he’s only 5’11”, which for a centre back is a very average height, but if paired with a bigger partner, such as the 6’1” Lukas MacNaughton, those concerns should be eased rather quickly.
The older of the two, Dixon, is also a very interesting pickup for the Tridents, as he brings a much-needed veteran presence to a younger team. He didn’t play much for Ottawa in 2019, only picking up 916 minutes, but he had his strong moments, averaging 1.2 tackles/90, 2.5 clearances/90 and 1.5 interceptions/90 in his limited playing time.
A more defensive midfielder, he’ll be expected to give Kah another solid midfield option along with Alessandro Horjabpour, Matthew Baldisimo and Noah Verhoeven, while also providing cover at centre back if absolutely needed. He’s not that tall, standing at only 5’10”, but he’s a solid individual, which will make teams think twice before trying to bypass him in the middle of the park.
All in all, these two signings really give Pacific some beef in the defensive end, which is an area they’re surely not done upgrading quite yet. Offensively, they’re set, especially with the arrival of Bustos, but they also needed some more defensive spine, which is why the arrivals of Dixon and Meilleur-Giguere were lauded across the league.
With those signings now completed, here is a look at Pacific’s current depth chart. As we can see, the starting lineup is solid, the key now will be to finding depth, while also seeing if fitting in 2019 standout Ben Fisk still remains possible.
Along with the yet-to-be signed USports Draft Picks, Jan Pirretas-Glasmacher and Thomas Gardner, Pacific has a solid base of a roster heading into camp, with just over a month to add to it. They’ve got all of their promising 2019 youngsters locked up, they’ve got some veteran punch in, and they’ve just added their difference-maker, now it’s just putting all of that together, along with some depth added in for good measure.
But heading into 2020, there’s no doubt that things are looking up on the Island, as the team looks to make a big jump forward in year 2. Things didn’t end as hoped last season, but a solid foundation was laid, now they’ll just want to build on that.
Which as seen by the Bustos signing, they’ve wasted no time in doing so far, as they’ve sent a big message heading into the start of their 2020 preseason camp.