Pacific FC makes its first trip over the Strait of Georgia this week for a Friday night match against rivals Vancouver FC. This is the Tridents’ fourth all-BC derby already in 2023, an amazing reminder of the growth of the game in this province.
After an gritty battle in the opening match of the season, the Tridents and the Eagles meet for the second time, having experienced A LOT since that match. The Tridents’ opening stretch of the season was unprecedented. The squad has played ten matches in 42 days and it’s only the beginning of June. It’s frankly a ridiculous run of football to begin a season, but one that included many positive performances throughout – a testament to the depth in the team.
This away trip to the Mainland gives the team and its supporters a chance to experience something new together as well. The closest away trip the club has ever been on before involved flights to Alberta. So expect a strong contingent of travelling fans to spur the boys on on Friday night, as everyone in purple and teal at Willoughby Community Park will be looking to bring back all three points on that ferry ride home.
Trends and Stats
As mentioned before, the overarching story and trend of the first two months of Pacific’s season is the amount of football played. With eight of those 10 matches being played on the Island, this is just the third away trip for the Tridents in 2023. There has also been about a week between fixtures, an unfamiliar feeling so far this season.
On the pitch, Pacific needs to find the form they enjoyed in the first few weeks of May where the goals flowed freely. The last two league matches have been 1-1 draws, not quite up to the standards this team sets for itself.
For Vancouver, the Eagles haven’t won a match since April 22nd – their only win of the season. But, four of their last five matches since that win have ended in draws. Aside from that 5-0 home loss to Ottawa, Vancouver has been difficult to break down and have prided themselves on the defensive side of the game. Two straight 0-0 draws show a team intent on not losing games, but also finding it difficult to put the ball in the back of the net themselves.
That opening day derby match was a sight to behold. A sellout crowd at Starlight Stadium watched on as Pacific found the only goal of the game through Manny Aparicio, and sent the Eagles and their travelling supporters home with a loss in their inaugural match. Given the passion on the pitch and in the stands during the first derby in this rivalry’s history, this fixture appears as though it’ll be circled on the calendar every time it pops up.
“Derby’s matter. They are great for the clubs, the players but most importantly the fans. Each game has its own storyline and its exciting for the game in BC, and that’s what the CPL is here for and what we are trying to build in the country.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman
Players to Watch
Pacific FC – Kieran Baskett; Vancouver FC – Callum Irving
After coming in to start Pacific’s last match against HFX Wanderers FC, Baskett showed off his fantastic shot-stopping ability and was a commanding and vocal presence at the back. Facing off against his old team, Baskett showed no nerves in just his third appearance of the season. With a clean sheet and two goals allowed in those three games, the 21-year-old looks comfortable between the posts and has made it clear he isn’t afraid to marshal his more experienced defenders ahead of him. With eye-catching saves in both of his CPL appearances so far, Baskett is quickly establishing himself amongst the league’s more athletic goalkeepers and will be looking to keep his first clean sheet in the league on Friday night.
The former-Pacific FC man, Callum Irving, is now between the posts for Vancouver FC. The 30-year-old has been a great influence for the young squad put together on the Mainland, organizing the team from the back and providing the stability needed from the goalkeeper position. With two clean sheets in seven appearances this season, both of which have come in the last two matches, it seems as though the Eagles have found their defensive identity. Pacific FC supporters and players know what to expect from Callum Irving when it comes to his shot-stopping ability, and will be acutely aware of the quality of finishing it can take to beat him.
Keys to Victory
What can we learn from Atlético Ottawa’s 5-0 victory over the Eagles? Well, while Vancouver is a very solid and well-drilled defensive team, if you allow them to come onto you and draw their defensive line up the pitch, they are very susceptible to counter attacks. Ottawa scored multiple goals in that match from counter-attacking situations, and could’ve had a few more with better finishing.
So, pulling Vancouver out of their shape – either through good off-ball movement while in possession or by forcing them to step higher up the pitch with the ball when they’re in possession – would allow the many fantastic attacking options at Merriman’s disposal to thrive on Friday night.
Also, use the away support to your advantage. This is essentially the first time there will be a strong and coordinated group of travelling supporters following the team to a match. So match their energy, put in a good performance as a group, and send them back to the Island happy.
Match Facts to Know
- The next win for Pacific FC, in whatever match it comes, will be the 5oth in club history. The next win will also take James Merriman into sole possession of the most wins as PFC Head Coach with 22.
- With a win on Friday, Pacific FC will take over top spot in the Canadian Premier League table. The Tridents would be level on points with Forge FC on 15, but would hold the tie-breaker.
- Pacific FC supporters will be gathering at Dead Frog Brewery (8860 201 Street #105, Langley Township) ahead of the match before journeying down to Willoughby Community Park for kickoff. Join the party and make an occasion of this unique away trip.