After a solid regular season, Pacific FC are now getting set to tackle the CPL Playoffs. Before then, here’s a look back at how their campaign went.
A tough run of form in October shouldn’t take away from a very good year by the ‘Kings of BC’ over on the island.
From topping Vancouver Whitecaps to topping the table for a large part of the season, there have been many good memories and positives to take away from Pacific FC.
As the Canadian Premier League playoffs are right around the corner, it’s prime time to take a look at how the Tridents’ campaign played out, along with what awaits them in their match against Cavalry.
Transfers Living Up to Hype
After an active winter transfer window, Pacific entered the Kickoff bubble with many fresh faces. Manny Aparicio became a key cog in the midfield, an energizing presence who was able to contribute on and off the scoresheet. Aparicio always seemed to be in the middle of things with his energy, winning balls and setting his teammates up with incisive passes. Of course, goals like these will help many remember the name.
Aparicio wasn’t the only acquisition to star. Ollie Bassett lived up to the early hype and cemented himself as a fixture on the Pacific side. He missed a bit of time due to an injury, but Bassett’s presence in the deep-lying role is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. He adds a dead ball threat along with another creative force to compliment a very good forward core.
The depth pieces brought in have also shown themselves to be quality additions. Matteo Polisi, who found himself inserted into the starting eleven due to a myriad of injuries, performed admirably as a stand-in and proved to be a very reliable option as a sub for Pa-Modou Kah.
Kunle Dada-Luke has also been notable this year as well. The young full-back arrived under the radar but has emerged as the season wore on. With a couple of starts under his belt, Dada-Luke showed flashes of pace and creativity, something that the Tridents will hope to nurture down the right side.
A Young Team Growing
It’s also been a year where Pacific FC has developed from within. Their young core has been something in the works since their inception, and the Tridents are beginning to see the fruits of that.
I think a player that exemplifies how far he and Pacific have come in 2021 is Lukas MacNaughton. In 2019, he forever etched his name in Trident history as the first player to ever be sent off. Now, merely three seasons later, the defender has emerged as one of the best in the entire league. MacNaughton’s had himself a very good campaign, third in the CPL with 47 interceptions and in all being a pillar at the back. Of course, who can forget about this goal in August?
And he’s not the only member of the backline that’s taken a step up, either. Kadin Chung has continued his upward trend, the fullback really showing how his time with Pacific has benefitted his game. Chung’s looked more confident as of late and has improved his defending as well. His 64 tackles this year speak to his physical presence on the left.
I’m cheating a little here with this inclusion, but Pacific fans should be excited to see Chris Lee return to the club next spring. He’s been a force with the UBC Thunderbirds, playing the left wing-back spot. Lee’s been a step above his competition throughout the year with mature defending and a potent offensive presence. Coming off a Canada West championship, he should be a good addition going forth.
And of course, the strikers have been a story throughout the year for the Tridents. Wero Diaz found his form in prime time, really supplementing the offence after Marco Bustos went down for a while. His ten goals on the year put him tied for the team lead with Terran Campbell, who himself has been a revelation. After a shaky 2020 campaign and a rocky start, it seemed Campbell’s time on the island would be coming to an end. In the face of adversity, the striker caught fire and began to torch opposing defenders. His fine form tapered off a bit to the end, but make no mistake: Pacific has some real goal scorers that will make anyone pay if they leave them just a little gap.
As with most growth spurts, there are pains to go along with it. Pacific found themselves heading into the final few months sitting atop the CPL table, though it was a slender lead. That gap soon vanished with some stumbles in October, and it didn’t help matters that the two-time champions Forge FC found their footing after a rough start to the season by their standards.
The Tridents dropped some tough games, a 2-1 loss to FC Edmonton to kick off October and following that up with a 1-0 defeat to HFX Wanderers. The two losses to Cavalry were also not great, as it allowed the Calgary team to leapfrog them in the standings. Pacific also bowed out of the Canadian Championship, losing their semifinal matchup against Toronto FC in a hard-fought 2-1 result. In all, 2 wins in 7 matches were not good enough to keep pace with Forge and Cavalry.
It’s the first time this group of players has been in this position, where they are the ones to be toppled, not the ones seeking to topple. Of course, there are other contributing factors, such as controversial refereeing decisions in the match against York United. The inexperience of being table-toppers might have contributed to a small slip down the standings, but knowing this squad and Kah, it’s a learning experience that will allow them to grow.
And perhaps, the third-place team could feel a little less pressure heading into the playoffs, and play the giant killers once more.
And So, Heading Into the Playoffs…
It’s pretty fitting that Pacific FC will be playing against Cavalry FC in the CPL semi-finals, a one-match playoff in which the winner takes all. These teams have been back and forth the entire season with rivalling playstyles. Tommy Wheeldon Jr has his team playing a cagey defence-first approach with clinical counterattacks, while Kah emphasizes a dynamic, free-flowing offensive attack.
Their head-to-head record historically has been deadlocked as well. In all competitions, Cavalry has a slight 19-18 edge against Pacific, and of course, have won the last two meetings between the clubs. That isn’t to say the Tridents aren’t out of this either. Pacific have shown that they can breach the bastion walls and lock it down when needed, with the purple-and-teal winning their CanChamp quarterfinal meeting 1-0.
It makes for an exciting tilt heading into next Saturday. These teams have proven themselves to be very comparable, if not rivals. Each match between them is a battle in the trenches and Pacific will need to dig deep to get the win. While their form might have slipped from the fearsome stretch they had in the summer, there shouldn’t be any doubts that they are very capable of getting the result they want. The only question now is if we’ll see them return to their peak soccer.
The semi-final matchup is set to kick off in Calgary’s ATCO Field at 1 PM MST. Catch all the action live on OneSoccer.