Talk about keeping the good times rolling.
Pacific FC took their momentum from the victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC this past week in the Canadian Championship with them into league play Sunday, unleashing a barrage of goals early to take a 3-2 victory over Valour FC.
Starlight Stadium was noticeably less full than it was Thursday night during the first-ever ‘Ferryside Derby’, but the sunny day in Langford was brightened up by the loud cheers of the supporters as the Tridents looked to secure their spot atop the Canadian Premier League table.
Pacific lined up in a 4-3-3 with their main stars taking a rest. Aparicio was stellar in Thursday’s game but needed the break, while Bustos and Bassett were still held out due to so far unknown nagging injuries. As such, PFC’s depth was called to action.
With a bit of a technical delay on OneSoccer, the match kicked off between the two sides. Coming into the match, Pacific had looked a bit tepid in league play. They dropped points to mid-table FC Edmonton, while coming off a disappointing loss against Cavalry before their Canadian Championship match. However, though August, the Victoria outfit did put up the points.
On the other hand, Valour was spinning its wheels. After a strong start in The Kickoff bubble, the return to a normal travel schedule seemed to have messed with their form. The Winnipeg side has been mediocre at best, an inconsistent set of results coming into their Saturday tilt.
It was the league leaders who struck first. Former Simon Fraser midfielder Matteo Polisi’s pressure forced the Valour defense into a howler of a giveaway, sending Alejandro Diaz alone with the keeper.
Yeah, he doesn’t miss much of those. A clinical finish into the bottom right past a sprawling Jonathan Sirois put the Tridents up in the 11th minute, giving the hosts a very early lead.
However, Valour would push back. Running down the field, a cross was swung into the box that Austin Ricci got on the end of, having a go at goal. It was only a stellar sliding block by Abdou Samake that kept the ball out of the net.
Then in the 17th minute, Valour midfielder Willy Akio forced a turnover in the middle of the pitch, springing a through ball for a counter. Ricci turned on the jets, catching it and slotting it by goalkeeper Callum Irving with a very well-placed shot. They’d equalized very early on, and Pacific looked a little ragged.
Well, the raggedness didn’t last long though. Terran Campbell took on two defenders by himself, before sliding a low cross over right onto the foot of Polisi. Sirois managed to parry it, but unfortunately for him, the ball bounced between his legs as he slid across goal. Pacific was right back on top in the 22nd minute.
The goal avalanche didn’t stop either. Diaz got himself on the end of a deep ball by Jordan Haynes, before spotting Campbell into the box and delivering a cross the in-form forward finished.
This marked Campbell’s fourth goal in four games and made it a three-way tie for the Pacific scoring lead with 5 goals to himself, Bustos, and Diaz. Already three goals in the first 34 minutes, the Tridents looked comfortable for a victory.
Quite literally in the next two minutes though, Irving was called upon to make a fine save off of Ricci. Sliding to his left, he denied Valour’s goal scorer who was all alone in front of goal. Saves like these really show why he currently leads the CPL in clean sheets.
Victor Blasco was also looking to make an impact today. The midfielder was buzzing with chances, using his speed and energy to create many a chance. In the 43rd came his best opportunity, beating out Rocco Romero for a deep ball. Sadly, it was missing that last bit of class as it soared barely past the far right post.
Pacific headed into halftime holding a comfortable two-goal lead, and men in purple and teal were showing the quality of league leaders through the first 45. Valour in the meantime had been opportunistic, but they were looking to be better to hopefully draw even.
And indeed it was the Winnipeg side that came out of halftime with a point to prove. Their play from the back looked visibly more purposeful as they got an early chance in the 49th, Akio’s cross forcing Irving to get his hands on it.
Next came a moment that Valour would want back. The counterplay they showed so far had been extremely effective, and in the 57th minute, they put that on display. A quick set of passes sprung Ricci on a two-on-one. He played a brilliant pass over to Keven Aleman, past a down and out Irving. With 24 by 8 feet to shoot at, the Valour man came up zero, bombing it wide to the cheers of the Pacific faithful.
Pa-Modou Kah made some changes after that, bringing on Heard and Aparicio for Campbell and Polisi in the 59th. Of course, Aparicio being Aparicio, he got himself yellow carded literally the next minute.
It was Valour that looked more purposeful as the match drew on, forcing Irving to stand tall and keep the lead where it was. However Pacific did manage to scramble three chances on net in the 72nd, off of a counter that resulted in three glorious opportunities. It was only thanks to the stellar efforts of Sirois that kept the Tridents from adding to their lead.
The game went back and forth for a bit before a 50-50 ball in the Pacific box saw a heavy collision that awarded Valour a penalty. Aleman this time made no mistake with the spot-kick, cutting the lead to one in the 85th, just for some added drama.
In stoppage time though it was Pacific coming away with the best chance, Sirois turning away a blistering run by Kunle Dada-Luke in the 93rd. The final whistle was blown with PFC taking all three points on offer, further bolstering their title aspirations.
Man of the Match
-This was the first time in a while Pacific lost out in the possession battle, a 45-55 balance in favour of Valour. They seemed to make the most of it though.
-Valour also outshot the Tridents 20-16, though the teams were even in terms of shots on target at 7 apiece.
-VFC and PFC looked very chippy today and it showed, racking up 15 and 16 fouls respectively and a total of 6 yellow cards.
-The teams were quite evenly matched elsewhere on the stat sheet, both recording an 81% pass completion rate and almost even in corners taken.
The purple and teal brigade return to action Saturday, September 4th against 6th placed Edmonton at Clarke Stadium. Pacific fans can catch the action on OneSoccer as per usual, with a kick-off time of 6:00 PM PST.
Some Things to Keep an Eye Out For
It will be interesting to see what Pacific decides to do with Bustos and Bassett. Currently, their two biggest stars have missed out on two consecutive matches, and the vague language surrounding their injuries may be cause for concern. Hopefully, they can either return or rest up in the match against the Eddies.
Look for Terran Campbell to continue with his scorching hot form in the meantime while they’re out. He’s been red hot and has only been gaining confidence. Kah also has quite the depth options to choose from if he so pleases, with more than capable replacements in the Pacific roster.
Pacific sits in first place, 28 points in 15 matches played as the CPL ticks just over halfway done with their season. Forge FC have shown the mentality of the two-time champs so far, storming back from a shaky start and currently sit in second with 25 points and a game in hand. The race for first place looks to be heating up.