Match Preview — Pacific FC vs. Atlético Ottawa (Leg One): Tridents battling familiar foes in the nation’s capital
Canadian Premier League

2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Quarter-Finals (Leg 1)
Atlético Ottawa vs. Pacific FC
May 8, 2024 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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There’s an all-Canadian Premier League matchup on Wednesday in the Canadian Championship quarter-finals, as the joint-league leaders Atlético Ottawa and Pacific FC go toe to toe in the first match of their two-legged tie at TD Place in the nation’s capital.

Both sides have their eye on a berth in the semifinals, as Pacific look to return to that stage for a second consecutive year (and third time ever), while Ottawa hope to get to the final four for the first time in club history.

The action in this clash will be unmissable, with these two sides full of confidence to begin the year. They’ve got identical records after four games, each with three wins and one draw, to leave them tied in first place on 10 points.

Ottawa come into this game after an explosive week, which began with a 3-1 win on the road at Halifax Wanderers and followed with a pair of games against Valour FC at home. Within just four days, Atleti beat Valour 7-0 in a Canadian Championship match and then won again, this time 2-0, on Sunday. Even discounting that club-record seven-goal explosion, Ottawa are leading the CPL in goals with eight.

They’ll face a major challenge, however, in Pacific, who have remarkably not conceded a single goal in CPL action yet this year. With four clean sheets, their defence looks outstanding despite some major changes from last season — most notably Aly Ndom coming into the side to replace stalwart centre-back Amer Didic, who left for Ottawa in the winter.

Pacific had a harder time getting into this quarter-final, having to come from behind against League1 BC side TSS Rovers. Reon Moore scored in the eighth minute of added time to level it at 1-1, and then the Tridents went on to beat the semi-pro Rovers in a penalty shootout.

In 2023, Pacific’s Canadian Championship run was a highlight of their strong start to the season, as they beat Cavalry FC and TSS Rovers en route to an appearance in the semifinal. They lost at that stage to provincial rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps, but they’re very keen on perhaps seeing the MLS side again in a potential semifinal clash this year.

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  • Pacific keen to prove point vs. former stars: This particular matchup might have a little extra significance for a couple of Atlético Ottawa players. It’ll be the first time Pacific have played against Manny Aparicio and Amer Didic since the pair both left the club this off-season. Aparicio had been on Vancouver Island for three years and helped lead them to a CPL championship in 2021, while Didic had been there the previous two and been the club’s best defender. The motivation will go both ways here, though; Pacific have started the season very well, and are likely eager to show that they’re fine without those players who chose to leave. Likewise, there’s always extra motivation when playing a former club, and Aparicio and Didic will be extremely familiar with James Merriman’s tactics and thus might know a few tricks for how to play through Pacific. “There’ll be some emotions there for sure, they’re [former] teammates of players in our group and vice versa, but we have a new team,” Merriman said. “It’s a new season, and we’re attacking this game together as our group.”


  • Atlético Ottawa attack starting to thrive: In the space of nine days from April 27 to May 5, Atlético Ottawa scored 12 goals and conceded just one. Sure, more than half were in their midweek rout of Valour FC, but considering that their attack wasn’t potent enough in 2023, these are positive signs. In CPL play alone this year (which excludes the 7-0 Canadian Championship game), Ottawa are averaging 2.0 goals per game, up from 1.36 last season; it’s still early of course, but returns so far on the revamped squad are good. With a litany of new attacking pieces brought into the side, from Matteo de Brienne and Kris Twardek to Aparicio and Ballou Tabla, along with Rubén del Campo starting to find his scoring touch with four goals in his last three games, Atleti might genuinely have turned themselves into a front-footed powerhouse that can entertain and score enough goals to put games to bed early and avoid the risk of late concessions.


  • Pacific keeping things tight at the back: The immovable object standing in the way of Ottawa’s potentially unstoppable attack is a Pacific defence that has been rock-solid so far this year. The only goal they’ve conceded has been against TSS Rovers in the Canadian Championship, with four clean sheets in four CPL games. Generally, Pacific’s defensive strategy has been to allow quantity, but restrict quality when it comes to opposing shots. They’ve given up 48 shots so far, which is fifth-most in the league, but have allowed an average of 0.081 expected goals per shot against, which is the best rate in the CPL and suggests they’re ensuring teams have to take low-quality shots from difficult positions, which makes life easier for goalkeeper Emil Gazdov and generally prevents opponents from threatening consistently. Atlético Ottawa will have to be patient and methodical if they’re to get into the penalty area to take dangerous shots.


Pacific FC wins: 5 || Atlético Ottawa wins: 4 || Draws: 5

Last meeting:

Sept. 13, 2023 — Atlético Ottawa 1-1 Pacific FC


“I think we’re playing good footabll, and we’re coming off our best performance. We take a lot of confidence from the way we’re playing. If you look at the different matches Ottawa have had, they’ve had a lot of different games from the start of the season. Obviously their biggest performance was against Valour; you look at where they’re at in this part of the season and us, it’s a good challenge at the right time, but I definitely feel we’re coming in strong.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman