Pacific Football Club | Jack Longo
Convos with the enemy
In advance of Pacific FC’s trip to Toronto FC for their semifinal match in the Canadian Championship, I spoke with TFC Republic founder and former Director of Content for Canpl.ca, John Molinaro, to get a deep dive into PFC’s unfamiliar opponents.
Note: this conversation took place before TFC’s 1-1 draw with Atlanta and Pacific’s 2-1 loss to York on Saturday.
What does this version of TFC look like compared to previous season’s?
“Well, I would say it’s not the same version as last year’s team that was in the mix for the Supporters’ Shield and qualified for the playoffs. TFC’s 2021 campaign has been, frankly, a nightmare right from the get-go with the hiring of Chris Armas. They got that appointment spectacularly wrong and the club really suffered through the first 3 or 4 months of the season. Things have slightly improved since Javier Perez took over in early July but not to the point where it’s made any significant difference. It’s a TFC side that is hurting. Physically, they’re dealing with a lot of injuries right now. But they’re just not the same team they were last year, so Pacific might be catching them right at the perfect time. That said, TFC has really prioritized the Canadian Championship. They’re playing on Saturday in Atlanta and from what Javier Perez told us yesterday it sounds like it’s going to be a heavily rotated squad and he’s gonna hold players back for next Wednesday because they want to win the Canadian Championship. They are putting all their emphasis on that now. They haven’t won the tournament since 2018 and it’s a pathway into the Concacaf Champions League. So, they are firmly focussed on this and determined to win the tournament.”
Given how they’re prioritizing winning the Canadian Championship, can we expect a very
strong TFC lineup on Wednesday?
“I suspect they’re gonna put all their eggs in this one basket on Wednesday against Pacific and really go for it. I don’t suspect Yeferson Soteldo, one of their Designated Players, is going to be available because he’s dealing with a hamstring issue and from what Javier Perez told us on Thursday it sounds like he’s done for the season and won’t play another game. So they’ll be minus him but they’re still gonna have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore is rounding into form too, he’s scored in two consecutive games after a lengthy injury layoff. Alejandro Pozuelo, their third Designated Player, is coming off an injury and has played the last few games. Jonothan Osorio, Richie Layrea, the Canadian National Team members who play for John Herdman’s side, are gonna all be in that starting lineup. Injuries aside, this is going to be the strongest possible side TFC is going to field at BMO Field on Wednesday.”
Who are a few players to look out for if TFC is going to win this match?
“I think Altidore and Pozuelo as the Designated Players will be looked upon to really guide the attack, so they’re the obvious choices, but I think you also want to look at the crop of Canadians, specifically Laryea, Osorio, and Jacob Shaffelburg. For me, I think they’ve been three of the best and most consistent players throughout the campaign and Shaffelburg specifically over the last two months has been, I would argue, TFC’s best player. He’s just so quick and dynamic on the ball, he’s fearless and takes defenders one-on-one. I think he’s really breathed new life into that attack. Laryea is obviously a key player as well both for club and country. And Osorio has just been the rock for TFC this year. Probably the team’s MVP, really holding things down in midfield and an excellent two-way player.”
Are there areas of TFC starting XI to exploit for Pacific?
“Toronto has had defensive issues all season. I think they’ve given up 62 goals in MLS (as of Oct. 29) which is the second-worst defensive record in the league. The last few games Michael Bradley, the captain and normally a central midfielder, has had to slot in as a centre back. There’s been well-documented defensive issues, they’ve only kept two clean sheets in MLS this year in 32 games. So if Pacific’s attack, whether it’s Alejandro Diaz or Terran Campbell or whoever, can really have a go at them, they could be able to unbalance TFC’s backline.”
What has TFC’s tactical set up and style of play been this season?
“Chris Armas seemed to prefer three at the back and there was more of a pressing and counter-attacking style. Javier Perez is more slow, deliberate possession-based. He has played a three at the back but he’s admitted he only did that when it’s necessary and he doesn’t really prefer it. He prefers to go with a four-man defence so I suspect that’s what we’re going to see on Wednesday. They’ll try to go about dictating the pace of play with their possession and really go at Pacific right from the opening kickoff.”
Will Pacific’s victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps affect TFC’s preparation for this match?
“I’m sure they’re going to look at the game film and see how it played out, but it was a while ago so I don’t know if you can base too much of what you wanna do on a game that happened quite some time ago. But I do suspect TFC will look at that film for scouting purposes. To what degree they will use it in terms of how they set up I dont think it will be much.”
Will TFC approach this match any different from their previous Canadian Championship
match against York?
“I think they’re going to go at it exactly the same. They didn’t hold back against York, they went at them right from the get-go. They wanted to put the hammer down right from the opening kickoff in front of their hometown fans and I suspect that’s what they want to do here. They want to get that early lead and force Pacific to chase the game, and in doing that maybe they can carve them open at the back again and they’ll add some more goals. So I don’t think it’s going to change drastically, if at all, for TFC (when it comes to) their approach from the York United game.”
Is there anything else Pacific FC fans should know heading into this match?
“In this pandemic world the crowds haven’t been that great at BMO Field. I can’t even remember what the attendance was for the York game but it was a god-awful, rainy night as well. If I didn’t have to go out to the game to cover it I probably wouldn’t have been there it was so miserable. But they only had about 5,000 fans there so it wasn’t like a huge home field advantage for TFC and I don’t suspect it’s going to be much more of a crowd there on Wednesday. If they get through to the final and play Montreal at BMO field then I think that will lead to a healthy attendance. But I don’t suspect there’s going to be a massive TFC following on Wednesday so maybe Pacific can use that to their advantage.”
Don’t miss the Canadian Championship Semi-Final as Pacific FC take on Toronto FC at 4:30pm on Wednesday, November 3rd. Tune in at OneSoccer.ca on Channel 980 on Telus. Stay tuned to pacificfc.ca and follow the club on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for the latest news.
ABOUT PACIFIC FOOTBALL CLUB
Founded in 2018, Pacific Football Club brings professional football to Vancouver Island. Playing out of a renovated, 6000-seat Starlight Stadium in Langford, the club provides an outlet for Canadian soccer players to compete at the professional level of the sport on home soil.