(Sheldon Mack/Pacific FC)
Every PFC Player’s Highlight of the Season: Forwards
Part three of this “Highlights of the Season” series brings the forwards into the spotlight. With 42 goals scored in the Canadian Premier League in 2023, Pacific FC’s attacking quality was on full display throughout the campaign. At the forefront of that was the efforts of this season’s group of attackers each of whom showed unique qualities and made the Tridents incredibly difficult to defend against.
9. Easton Ongaro
- Brought in early last offseason, Ongaro’s ability to act as a focal point of the attack was a helpful addition to Pacific this season. With five goals in 1257 minutes of CPL action in 2023, there was only one player in the league to record a better goals-to-minutes ratio with more than five goals – highlighting the impact the six-foot-six attacker made in his first season on the Island. For Ongaro, there are a few goals that stand out this season, but top among them is his winner against Valour FC on June 21st when he made an excellent run off the centre-backs and finished expertly for the only goal in an otherwise frustrating game. Other than that, the hold-up and link-up ability Ongaro displayed – especially during the end of the regular season and the playoff run – were traits the Tridents’ supporters will be excited to see more of going forward.
10. Adonijah Reid
- Reid playing with the number 10 on his back is no coincidence. Although capable of playing across the attacking line, Reid is at his best when receiving the ball in tight pockets of space around the box and using his rapid acceleration and low centre of gravity to beat his man. With four goals and four assists during his first season in purple, Reid was a handful for opposition defenders all season long and was a useful switch up to Pacific’s other centre-forwards. When it comes to a highlight of the season there are a couple to pick from. You could point to his performance against Vancouver FC in the Tridents’ 6-3 win on the Mainland where he picked up two assists, or, more likely, it was his added time winner against York United FC to win the 4v5 play-in match at Starlight Stadium. That goal kicked off a memorable playoff run from the Tridents and provided a brilliant final memory at Starlight this season.
11. Josh Heard
- You could argue a highlight of Heard’s season, and perhaps his entire professional career, was when he was named the new Pacific FC captain in March. One of Vancouver Island’s own being named captain of his hometown club and taking on the responsibility with such aplomb is testament to the environment and ethos fostered around the club and to Heard’s elite mentality. While balancing his new responsibilities, Heard was also quietly very effective on the pitch for the Tridents. The four goals to his name in CPL action – one of six Pacific players to finish on that amount – shows how the versatile _-year-old can influence games from wherever he’s called upon to play. As for a highlight during the season, it’s tough to look past his screamer of a goal against Vancouver in Pacific’s Salish Sea Derby victory on the Mainland. To score that type of goal against your new local rivals, and past good friend Callum Irving in net, and then go off celebrating with your travelling fans is a difficult moment to top.
14. David Brazão
- Another first-year Trident was the Portuguese Brazão. Although he didn’t rack up a ton of minutes during the 2023 season, the impact Brazão made when he came on the pitch was significant. Brazão’s ability to manipulate space and the ball were characteristic of his upbringing and development in his homeland, but his ability to adapt to playing in a different country for the first time shouldn’t go unnoticed. For the 22-year-old, a few matches come to mind when analyzing his season, and there was one team in particular who Brazão loved to play against. Both of Brazão’s two goals in CPL action this season came in 4-1 wins over York United. The first, on Mothers Day, saw Pacific’s no. 14 get on the scoresheet during a nine-minute cameo off the bench for his first appearance in the league for the Tridents. Then, in mid-September, Brazão got his second of the campaign during Pacific’s away 4-1 demolition of the Nine Stripes with another clever, technical finish.
19. Abdul Binate
- This season was a story of hard work and determination paying off for the young Binate. Sidelined for all of last season with a bad knee injury before he could even see the pitch for Pacific, Binate fought back this season and was rewarded with his professional debut. An intelligent and active winger, Binate’s quality is evident as soon as he steps on the pitch, but the perseverance to come back from a brutal injury at such a young age was the more insightful note to take from his 2023 season. The highlights of the season for the 20-year-old came on July 11th when he made his professional debut away to HFX Wanderers FC and then on September 2nd when he made his home debut in front of the PFC supporters. With three appearances to his name Binate was also able to contribute to the Tridents’ U-21 minute total this season.
21. Ayman Sellouf
- Sellouf was an inspired addition to the Pacific squad in 2023. Brought in from the Netherlands to complete Pacific’s Dutch trifecta with Bradley Vliet and Djenairo Daniels, Sellouf put on a show with his technique and trickery, both of which was matched with end product to create one of the most dangerous attackers in the entire league. With seven goals and eight assists in CPL action, Sellouf finished the season with the highest number of goal contributions in the league and earned himself a nomination for Player’s Player of the Season – the one award voted on by fellow professionals. On top of those accolades, there are countless moments to pick from when choosing a highlight of the season. From his second half domination (one goal, two assists) of Vancouver in the 6-3 Derby win to his three other games with one goal and one assist, the highlight reel is long. Standing above the rest, however, is his goal against Atlético Ottawa where he ran through seemingly the entire team before finishing with a delicate chip over the goalkeeper – special stuff.
23. Djenairo Daniels
- The other Dutch attacker, Daniels, showed further proof this season of how effective he can be as a lone centre-forward in the CPL. Daniels is the best pressing forward in the league and can single-handedly break up opposition team’s build up play due to his sheer will up front. Not only that, but the __-year-old chipped in with three goals and three assists in just under 1,000 minutes. Of those goal contributions, Daniels’ goal away to Forge FC in early June was his most game-changing contribution of the season. That goal perfectly encapsulated Daniels as a player, and was likely the high point of his season, as he chased down a long ball and forced the Forge defenders and goalkeeper into a mistake which he then pounced upon to score and win the match for Pacific 1-0.
31. Kekuta Manneh
- Manneh was well-known in North American soccer circles, and especially in BC, before joining Pacific just before the start of the season. With 180 appearances in Major League Soccer under his belt – 118 and which came for Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Manneh’s arrival on the Island was definitely celebrated by Pacific supporters. It took the __-year-old a while to overcome some previous injuries and work his way back to full fitness, but once he did he took the CPL by storm. Manneh’s peak this season couldn’t have come at a better time for him and the Tridents as the Gambian-American really announced himself at the end of the regular season and during Pacific’s playoff run. Specifically, Manneh’s match-winning assist for Reid in the play-in match against York United and the own-goal he created and forced the defender into in the match against Halifax Wanderers FC – both of which were 1-0 wins for Pacific – showcased the immense quality he has. Then, to finish off the season, Manneh carved open the Cavalry FC defence during that semi-final meeting and finished with authority for a brilliant solo goal that dragged the Tridents back into the game.
With so many top-class attacking players this season, it’s no surprise the Tridents were near the top of the league in so many offensive categories. That’s down to the collective talent in this group as well as the cohesion and fluidity they played with – all of which combines to make Pacific one of the most fun teams to watch as a PFC supporter or neutral, but also one of the most frightening to watch as an opposition fan.