Match Preview — Pacific FC vs. TSS Rovers: Tridents look to start strong in first round of the 2024 TELUS Canadian Championship
Canadian Premier League

2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Preliminary Round
Pacific FC vs. TSS Rovers
May 1, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. PT
Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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After shocking the field in the 2023 Canadian Championship, do the TSS Rovers have any more magic up their sleeve?

That’s the question most will be wondering as Pacific FC gets set to host the Rovers in the preliminary round of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday.

A rematch of the 2023 quarter-finals, in which Pacific defeated the Rovers 2-0 to advance to their second-ever Canadian Championship semi-final, this will be a big match for both sides, who once again have big dreams in this competition.

For Pacific, they’ll be looking to reach their third semi-final in four years, as they reached the final four in 2021 and 2023, and were a penalty shootout away from reaching that stage in 2022. Yet, what that shows is that they’ve got a good history in this competition, and will look at add to it with a deep run again in 2024.

Armed with an experienced group, many of which played a big role in those various runs, they’ve got big aspirations once again this year.

Off to a strong start to their CPL campaign, sitting with two wins and one draw through three games, they enter this game in good form, too, which will only help their case.

Riding some strong defensive play, having yet to concede a goal, and capable of causing problems offensively, they’ve still got plenty of room to grow, as well, which they’ll look to show in this game.

“We know we want more still, but again, it’s still early, it’s our third game,” Pacific head coach James Merriman said after his team’s match vs. Cavalry this past weekend. “There are moments that were good that we can take, moments that we need to be better.”

Shifting over to the Rovers, they know how big of an opportunity this is for the club, as they step up to replace the original League 1 BC representatives in this competition, the Victoria Highlanders, who dropped out last month. It’s always a dream for semi-professional clubs to play in these sort of matchups, which can create all sorts of opportunities for all of those involved in the clubs, from the players to staff and more.

The Rovers lived that last year, as they famously upset Valour 3-1 in the preliminary round, becoming the first League 1 Canada side to defeat a professional outfit in this competition, a result that put all sorts of eyeballs on them.

They then came up short against Pacific, but even impressed in that game despite the 2-0 loss, as they only conceded the first goal in the 67th minute, and kept things within one goal all the way until the 87th minute, doing well to keep the tie competitive.

Therefore, while they’ll admit that these aren’t the circumstances in which they would’ve dreamt of returning to this competition in, they want to build off what they showed in 2023, and do their best to represent League 1 BC once again.

At the end of the day, a game like this will help the club’s ethos, which is to move players on to the next level, once again giving them the platform to shine and help their group do that, win or lose, which is the big victory for them as a club.

“It’s invaluable experience,” Rovers head coach, Brendan Teeling, said ahead of this match. “We don’t want the moment to get to the players, we want them to be in charge of themselves and make sure that they are able to perform steadily, and the experience is going to be critical.”

Photo Credit: Sheldon Mack/Pacific FC

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  • 2023 matchup a key learning lesson for both: Naturally, that both teams met in this competition less than a year ago will be a key talking point, and understandably so, as it gives both sides a reference of how the other will look in action. There’s only so much theoretical work that goes into game-planning for an opponent in another league – sometimes it can help to have gone head-to-head with a prospective opponent, which can provide valuable intel and reference points to use. Therefore, look for both teams to learn the lessons that they took from that game. For Pacific, that’ll be to be more ruthless and aggressive in the attack, especially early on, as they didn’t have a single shot in the Rovers box until added time of the first half, which gave the Rovers all sorts of belief that they could hold on and grab something. Because of that, look for Pacific to want to take that belief away as early as possible, which will require a strong start. As for the Rovers, they’ll want to be patient on the ball, and look to use their quality on the ball as often as they can. As seen against Valour last year, they’ve got the pieces to hurt teams in the attack, but they didn’t find them as often as they’d have liked against Pacific, in which they only logged three shots. It’s a risk, no doubt, but they’ll need to be confident in their ability to string the ball around and push into dangerous attacking areas, as they do so well in League 1 BC, if they’re to chase another upset.


  • Pacific hoping strong defence can spark cup run: It’s a famous adage for a reason – defence does win championships. Scoring is always important, but usually those who have a solid defensive foundation tend to have an advantage, especially in knockout competition. Pacific will be hoping that’s the case in this tournament, as they’ve proven to be quite the frustrating unit to play against in CPL action, the only team yet to concede across the league through three games. Thanks to their overall defensive play as a team, starting with their press and defensive shape, and then extending to their back line and goalkeepers, it’s been a team effort, too, which is key. Always known as a team that likes to play free-flowing, attacking soccer, it’s been a new layer to their game, but one that could make a big difference for them, giving them an edge in tight matchups. Of course, they’ve got some questions to answer in attack, having only scored three goals in three games, including just two non-penalty tallies, which they’ll look to improve in this game, but their strong defence has given them a shot at winning in each match. In knockout soccer, that’s going to be quite valuable, which is why they’ll believe they have every chance on going on a run, which they’ll know can only start with a strong showing in this match.


  • Rovers looking to tap into experienced attack: Since the Canadian Championship began including semi-professional teams in 2018, there have been 14 matches between semi-pro and professional teams. In those matchups, the semi-professional sides have scored more than one goal just twice – the Vaughan Azzurri nabbed two in a 3-2 loss to the Halifax Wanderers in the first leg of their first round qualifying tie in 2019, and then it was the Rovers last year in their 3-1 win over Valour. Because of that, it’s quite important to highlight that this Rovers side has retained a lot of the names who starred in that Valour game offensively, such as Matteo Polisi, who scored a brace, Erik Edwardson, who had two assists, Ivan Mejia, who scored, and Connor MacMillan, who started at the #10 in that game. Plus, Polisi and Mejia return with newfound professional experience, too, with Polisi having spent the past winter playing in Greece, while Mejia spent the second half of 2023 signed to Vancouver FC. This is key for the Rovers, as they’ve got players who can make things happen if they get them the service, which helps massively in a matchup like this. Expected to spend a lot of time defending as Pacific tries to break them down, having players who can be a threat offensively can also help give the Rovers defence time to rest if they can push the ball forward in possession, for example. Of course, their big goal will be to find the net and help make the upset a reality, but in a game like this, just finding a way to relieve that pressure on their defence can also help them massively in their quest to do that.


Pacific FC wins 1 || TSS Rovers wins: 0 || Draws: 0

Last meeting:

May 10, 2023 — Pacific FC 2-0 TSS Rovers


“We respect (the Rovers), we respect the game that they played here last last season, we know the energy that they put into the game against Valour, and we always respect everybody that we play. We’ll take this game very seriously, we want to advance in this competition, we went to the semi final last year, but we weren’t happy with the way we played against the Whitecaps, they have a very good team, but we felt we could have shown more. We want more in the tournament, and that starts with taking on the Rovers.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman