PREVIEW: Pacific FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Leg 1) — 2024 TELUS Canadian Championship
Canadian Premier League

2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Semifinal (Leg 1)
Pacific FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
July 10, 2024 at 7 p.m. PT
Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

For a third time in four years, Pacific FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps are facing off in the Canadian Championship, as they get set to do battle in the first leg of this year’s semi-finals at Starlight Stadium in Langford on Wednesday.

This time, however, things will look a little different in the latest instalment of the Ferryside Derby, as this matchup has been coined. After both of their previous meetings came in single-game elimination knockout matches, this match will offer up something different, with this tie being played over two legs.

With that comes some new opportunities. For a third straight time, both teams will meet in Langford, home to the first two editions of this derby, but will then head to Vancouver’s BC Place for the second leg, marking their first matchup at that stadium.

Before looking ahead to that, however, both teams focus remains solely on leg one, and rightfully so given what’s at stake.

At least, that’s the case for the hosts, Pacific, who know how important a match like this can be for them. Their fourth meeting against MLS opposition in the Canadian Championship, having played the Whitecaps twice and Toronto FC once, they’ve done well to go toe-to-toe in those matchups, picking up one win and two losses, scoring five goals and conceding eight across those three games.

There’s no better example of that than the first-ever Ferryside Derby match, in which Pacific was able to triumph with a dramatic 4-3 win in the preliminary round of the 2021 tournament, picking up massive result in one of the most entertaining games in Canadian Championship history.

This time around, however, expect a cagier version of Pacific in this match. Having now allowed six goals in two meeting with the Whitecaps, who won their second meeting 3-0 in last year’s semi-final, Pacific will know that the key to success in this tie will be to keep things tight defensively, and then pounce at the other end.

In the midst of a solid CPL campaign, sitting fourth in the table after a big win over Atlético Ottawa on the weekend, they’ll want to build off that heading into this tie, especially given their history in this competition. Having reached the semi-finals in three of the last four years, they’ve done well to step up in big games and shine, but now they want to take the next step that’s eluded them – to reach the final, and to do that they’ll need to make the most of a tough matchup against a good MLS side.

“The players in the match are aware of the opportunity,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, said this week. ” They want to test themselves against against MLS opposition, that’s always the goal at the start of the season, and we know it can happen in the Canadian Championship.”

As for the Whitecaps, they’ll know that the pressure is on them heading into this tie, and will be on them in every game they play in this tournament. That comes with the territory after what they’ve done over the last few years, winning back-to-back Canadian Championships in 2022 and 2023.

Because of that, the pressure is on them to make it a threepeat, and anything but will feel like a failure for this side.

Yet, the hardest thing to do in sports is to repeat success, as it can be hard to maintain the standard required to chase multiple trophies without getting fatigued and managing having a target on your back. The Whitecaps have learned that this tournament, and nearly didn’t make it to this stage, narrowly getting past Cavalry in the semi-finals after tying 2-2 on aggregate, only getting through on away goals.

Despite that, they enter this game in good form. In a playoff spot in MLS play, having won four and drawn one of their last seven league games, they’ll come into this game eager to continue that positive run of play over in cup play.

“It’s going to be hard, it’s the semi finals,” Whitecaps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said this week. “Everyone wants to go to the final, it’s a derby game, we’ve got a lot of feelings every time that we go to Vancouver Island, so we need to be on our best behaviour and performance to get a result, while not forgetting that it’s a 180 minute game, this is only the first part, so you need to be focused for the entire game, if you go up or or go down, you have to be very focused on the performance in order to set us up the best way for the for the second leg.”

In terms of squad availability, Pacific looks set to welcome back Adonijah Reid, Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and Kunle Dada-Luke to their squad after all were left out of their side vs. Ottawa, with Meilleur-Giguère and Dada-Luke fully available to play, while Reid will be on limited minutes. The latter also goes for Ayman Sellouf, who is also returning from an injury and came off the bench against Ottawa, but he’s a strong bet to feature even if unable to go from the start.

Meanwhile, the Whitecaps are without Sam Adekugbe and Triston Blackmon due to injuries, while Ali Ahmed remains out amidst his participation with the Canadian men’s national team at Copa América, although a few players remain doubtful after the last match, including midfielder Pedro Vite.

Photo Credit: Pacific FC/Sheldon Mack

All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, FuboTV, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.


  • What lessons can be learned from first two Ferryside Derby meetings? No doubt, familiarity can be crucial in a matchup like this, as it can be tough to navigate the unknown in a big tie. Because of that, it’ll be intriguing to see who can make the most of what they learned in the past two matchups between these two sides. Especially given that they’ve each split a game apiece, they’ll both have plenty of positives to look back at from their respective triumphs, which will give an idea of what they need to do well. For Pacific, the two big things will be to be clinical with their chances, as they were in their 4-3 win, while also remaining a bit tidier defensively, given that this is a two-legged tie and that away goals could benefit the Whitecaps, whereas that 4-3 win came in a single-game elimination where that was not a factor. As for the Whitecaps, they’ll want to see the ruthlessness they showed in their 2023 win over Pacific, in which they scored two goals inside 17 minutes to grab a stranglehold on the game, one they didn’t relinquish en route to a rather comfortable 3-0 win. Otherwise, the big thing to watch will be the impact of there being a second leg in this tie. As seen in the quarter-finals, teams who did well to keep leg one tight at home tended to do well in leg two, showing why Pacific will look to be solid defensively in leg one to give themselves a chance in leg two, and why the Whitecaps will want to leave with a couple of away goals in their pockets ahead of that second match.


  • Pacific’s defence set to play role ahead of crucial first leg: It’s been said many times – strong defensive teams will always have a chance of doing well in knockout soccer. That’s good news for Pacific, who have been among the best in the CPL this year defensively, allowing just 10 goals in 13 league games, and 12 goals in 16 games in all competitions. Heading into a tie like this, that’ll give them a key edge, as they saw in the quarter-finals, where they got past a tough Atlético Ottawa side 2-1 on aggregate, doing well to keep their offence quiet across both legs. In particular, look for Pacific to continue their commitment to team defence, as that’s where they’ve found their success this year, doing well to defend as a unit. Along with the return of Emil Gazdov, who shone in Pacific’s recent win over Ottawa, making five saves and keeping a clean sheet, those two factors will be huge. Otherwise, also keep an eye on Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, as he Josh Heard, Kunle Dada-Luke and Sean Young were the only guys in Pacific’s squad when they beat the Whitecaps who still remain with the team, as Meilleur-Giguère came off the bench in the 83rd minute to help see out the win on that day. On a team with some young defenders and a young goalkeeper in Gazdov, Meilleur-Giguère’s experience in those sort of matches will be invaluable, making him a name to watch, as he can be a key defensive marshall at the back for this Pacific side.


  • Whitecaps looking to build off recent offensive form: On their day, there’s no doubt that this Whitecaps team can score goals. Led by their dynamic duo of Brian White and Ryan Gauld, who have scored 19 of the team’s 34 goals in MLS play this year, they can be a tough team for anyone to defend on their day. There’s a reason why Gauld’s up to nine goals and six assists on the season, while White is up to 10 goals and two assists, showing what they can do when they’re at their best. Plus, they enter this game in fantastic form – White has scored five goals in his last three games, while Gauld has nabbed six goals and six assists in his last nine games. Central to everything the Whitecaps do, as Gauld is a creative force who works extremely hard off the ball, while White combines smart movement with good hold-up play and work rate to compliment Gauld, both embodying Sartini’s philosophy of wanting to be a team that combines industrial defensive play with free-flowing attacking play. Yet, if White or Gauld don’t feature, the Whitecaps have some other names to turn to in the attack, too –  Levonte Johnson scored two beautiful goals in their triumph over Cavalry, Fafà Picault has had some bright offensive moments this year, while Ryan Raposo has chipped in with offence from wing back, showing that this team has some good attacking depth. Make no mistake, however, this team tends to go as White and Gauld do, which is why they thrived at the beginning of the year and recently as the pair have heated up, but also slowed down in May when the pair hit a wall. Given their form as of late, the Whitecaps will hope they can keep the good times flowing, and understandably so heading into a game like this.


Pacific FC wins: 1 || Vancouver Whitecaps FC wins: 1 || Draws: 0


“We know the quality that they have, they have quality all over the pitch, they’re able to bring players in off the bench if they want to change the game, and they also have dynamic players that they can bring in at any time that can open up games. So we need to be humble, we need to understand the work, the discipline and the sacrifice that’s going to be needed to get something out of these games, and that’s the base, that’s the start for us. Then, we’ll need to be incredibly disciplined and be together with our match plan, but we’ve been doing that this season, we’ve been defending very well, we’ve been together without the ball, we’ve been compact, we’ve been making it difficult for teams, so I expect the same (in that regard), and then we’re going to have to also be very ruthless going forward. — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

Oh, it was a huge experience, we’ve got another year of maturity, so when we look back at that game, and we look at pieces of it, we weren’t happy with our discipline and our decision-making as players and as a team. I think the moment got to a lot of us last year, so we’ll all be coming to this game thinking of that game and what we’ve learned from it, and now we’re a year older, a year more mature, and we’re excited to get to work.” — Pacific FC captain Josh Heard