PREVIEW: Pacific FC vs. Vancouver FC — Tridents look to even season series against Salish Sea rivals
Canadian Premier League

2024 CPL Regular Season — Match #45
Pacific FC vs. Vancouver FC
June 27, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. PT
Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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It’s derby day in British Columbia, as Pacific FC is getting set to host Vancouver FC at Starlight Stadium for the sixth instalment of the Salish Sea Derby on Thursday.

This time, however, after both entered their first meeting of the year, a 2-1 Vancouver win on May 25th, filled with confidence, this game promises to be much different.

With both sides coming off frustrating losses, as Pacific fell 2-0 to a 10-men York United side in their last match, while Vancouver were thumped 4-0 by a 10-men Halifax in their last outing, it’s expected that both come out strongly in this derby in the chase of a response.

Given that four of the five previous derby matches between each other have been decided by one goal, that’s intriguing, as both teams typically tend to battle for every inch of the field when playing each other, so it’ll be intriguing to see what that added motivation will bring to the table.

Seeing that both sides are neck-and-neck in the CPL standings, with Pacific sitting in fourth place with 16 points, while Vancouver is in fifth place with 15 points, that alone will be enough to push both teams to victory, knowing that a win for either side could vault them as high as second place depending on the other results across the league.

Despite that, however, the pressure certainly sits on Pacific heading into this game, given that they’re the home team, and have lost three straight derby matches against Vancouver. After opening the all-time series with two wins, that means they’ve now gone over a year since they last beat Vancouver, which will be on their minds as they enter this game.

At the same time, they enter this game focused on improving their own play, as they look to bounce back from their loss to York. Having felt that they didn’t play to their usual standard in that game, struggling at both ends to the pitch, they want to return to their identity against Vancouver, which they’ll feel is just as important as anything they’ll do in this match.

“We wanted more from from ourselves against against York,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, said this week. “So that’s fine, it is what it is, it’s a long season and we’re not even halfway (done).”

He added: “I think the players are working in a really good way, the group is in a good way, they want to respond, they want to show a response and show their quality tomorrow night, and that’s ultimately what we need to do.”

As for Vancouver, however, they’ll be looking to ride the positive momentum they’ve had in past derby matches, using that to their advantage. Especially after their loss against Halifax, which they felt was their worst of 2024, they’ll also be looking to return to their usual standard, while using that derby momentum to their advantage.

Given that their loss to the Wanderers only came this past Sunday, while Pacific has had to stew on their York loss since last Wednesday, Vancouver will also feel that gives them an edge, as that shorter turnaround gives them less time to dwell on their struggles and instead put their focus on winning this game.

“Derbies are exciting,” Vancouver’s head coach, Afshin Ghotbi, said this week. “Because regardless of where teams are in the table, and what their form has been before coming into a derby, teams and players will come into the match motivated and excited, because there’s history.”

In terms of player availability, Pacific looks set to welcome back goalkeeper Emil Gazdov to the fold after an illness but didn’t issue an update on Ayman Sellouf after he missed their last two games, while Vancouver didn’t have anything new to note after having most of their key regulars available in their last match.

Photo Credit: Vancouver FC/Beau Chevalier

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  • Can derby momentum carry-over? No doubt, momentum is crucial in this sport. Struggling teams can often descend into extended ruts, while strong teams can find a way to string together wins in bunches when all is going well for them. At the same time, it’s hard to know how much momentum can matter in a matchup like this, where there can be months in between games. Yet, that’s why derbies are so special, as teams don’t typically forget wins or losses over rivals, which is why it can lead to a unique phenomenon – the carry-over of momentum across extended periods of time. Just look at how Pacific were able to pick up wins in the first two matches between these two teams, before Vancouver responded with their three straight wins, building off the last game each time. Because of that, it puts pressure on Pacific in this game, as Vancouver is carrying the momentum in this battle, something that Pacific will have to respond to. Of course, that pressure can also be flipped, as Vancouver will feel frustrated if they don’t extend their win streak over Pacific to four games, so it shows that this battle will be as much one of wits as it is one decided on physical battles, tactical plans and things of the like – the team that can best harness that pressure, the support of their fans and their desire to win will shine and grab the win, as is often the case in derbies. Certainly, one thing is for sure, however  – expect a close match, as one thing a derby match is always good for is a tightly-contested match.


  • Pacific on the hunt for more consistency: While Pacific’s loss to York will have stung for many reasons, arguably the biggest of them is that it meant Pacific has remained without back-to-back wins in CPL play since their first two games of the season, when they beat Halifax and Valour at home in consecutive matches. They’ve done well to pick up points throughout the season since then, sitting with a record of 4W-4D-3L, but that lack of back-to-back wins has stood out to them, as they know that being able to string together wins can often make a huge difference in the playoff race. Because of that, Pacific preached the importance of one key word in their pre-match availability – consistency. Be it a consistency in their performances, as they’ve felt they’ve not been able to maintain that in their last few weeks, either, to the consistency of their results, they’ll be looking to use this Vancouver game as a springboard to try and string together a run of strong games and wins. Having been right there in every game, with their York loss the first one they’ve lost by more than one goal, that’s not an unreasonable expectation, one they’ll now look to chase over the weeks to come. Certainly, a tough run of injuries hasn’t helped them in that quest, and that isn’t lost on them, but they’ll see that as just one of the many factors they’ll look to overcome to go on a run once again. “It’s something we spoke about a lot at the beginning of the season, and we’re still working towards finding our consistency as a team, both in the way that we play, and the way that we approach and attack every game,” Merriman said. “To be fair to the players and to the group, we’ve had a lot of injuries, and that can be difficult, especially when games are coming quick and fast.”


  • Vancouver looking to re-ignite offence: With 14 goals in 11 games, Vancouver’s offence has been among the better in the CPL this season, as they sit fourth-best in goals for. That’s doubly impressive when you consider their most recent run – after getting shut out by Halifax, they’ve now only scored two goals in their last four games, and have been shut out in three of those matches. Yet, after coming out of the gates flying offensively to begin the year, they’ve slowed down in the past few weeks, something they’ll want to change in this game. When this Vancouver team has been at their best, the goals have flowed, so they’ll look to find that balance between offence and defence, one that seems to get the most out of them. An aggressive team defensively, they’re often at their best at both ends of the pitch when their offence is leading the way, which is another reason why they’ll look to get going again offensively. In particular, look for three players to step up – Moses Dyer, Mikaël Cantave and Gabriel Bitar. With Alejandro Díaz’s loan from Norway set to expire after this game, leaving his future with the club unclear, Vancouver will want to see Dyer, Cantave and Bitar step up and find some form, knowing that they could be crucial towards getting the attack going once again. “Last game (vs Halifax) worries me, because it’s a game where we took very soft goals, and didn’t make enough quality chances to win the game,” Ghotbi said. “But I think every team will have that in a season, and I’m hoping that it’s only a one game misfire, so hopefully in this Pacific game we can come back to our own (standard) and show the qualities and the goalscoring abilities that we have.”


Pacific FC wins: 2 || Vancouver FC wins: 3 || Draws: 0

Last meeting:

May 25, 2024 — Vancouver FC 2-1 Pacific FC


“We need energy, intensity, a physical and emotional response, to show more passion and have more motivation in the way that we attack the game as soon as it starts, as soon as that whistle blows, and then we need to show more quality, of course. But this only happens with the right focus, the right approach and the right mentality. I know that our players are going to be right there tomorrow night, as it’s a big match for us, it’s a big opportunity for us to respond, and I think when reading our group, that’s what they’re going to do.”  — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

“These are the type of games that you look forward to at the start of the season. You look for them in the schedule and see where they are, and it adds even more that that we’re right beside each other in the league, and that both teams are coming off pretty poor performances. So I think that’s only just going to add to it, and it’s going to build this up, so we’re all looking forward to this. It’s one of those things where we feel like we almost owe them one from the last time, you know? We’ve talked about it, we didn’t feel as if we played our best against them, and we’re looking forward to making up for that.”  — Pacific FC forward Dario Zanatta