Watch OneSoccer’s hour-long review of Pacific FC’s Island Games campaign at OneSoccer.ca.
A new coach and a new mentality on Vancouver Island. Pa-Modou Kah arrived at Pacific FC in January to much fanfare, arriving as a Vancouver Whitecaps-connected gaffer and a replacement to Michael Silberbauer.
No one could have predicted Kah’s influence on his squad and, most importantly, the Black Lives Matter movement, which transcended the club and Canadian Premier League in 2020 in many ways. And there was Pacific FC, leading the charge both on and off the pitch for the first time in its two-year history.
Results were impressive enough, with PFC reaching the second stage under Kah’s leadership in a season that began with the biggest inter-club player swaps in league history…
Here’s Pacific FC’s 2020 Year in Review.
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The story of the season
Kah’s arrival at Pacific saw a reunion with several Whitecaps 2 players, including Victor Blasco, Kadin Chung, Terran Campbell, and Matthew Baldisimo, and eight confirmed players for the 2020 CPL season.
Work began right away to find PFC a marquee signing. In stepped Marco Bustos. The former Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian men’s national team player took his talents to Vancouver Island after making 25 appearances in all competitions for his hometown Valour FC in 2019, impressing as a shifty creative attacker. The pair set a goal for the season’s end: for Bustos to win Player of the Year at Awards 2020.
More impressive additions followed, including former LigaMX striker Alejandro Diaz, before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered plans for a typical season, making way for The Island Games.
Lukas MacNaughton’s last-minute equalizer to York9 FC, now York United, in the second game showed their newfound spirit, as did a heartbreaking defeat to Forge four days later, a match soon-to-be CPL Champion Bobby Smyrniotis called one of the best games of the 2020 CPL season.
PFC’s attacking unit began to click as the tournament went on. The Tridents would be held goalless in just two matches in PEI, finding attacking output from across the frontline. Instinctive finishing by Díaz and Blasco proved this against Valour FC and, by game four, Kah had a solid five-point footing and his first professional win.
The first half was, frankly, not good. Coach Kah was furious in his halftime interview on OneSoccer, clearly unimpressed by his team’s failure to generate a single shot on target in a must-win game. The second half started even worse, as well: Easton Ongaro scored in the 59th minute, giving Pacific just half an hour to score twice and save their season.
Josh Heard put them back in the game, burying a rebound off a free kick. From there, Pacific threw the kitchen sink at the Eddies, with one more goal all they needed to earn a top-four spot. They took five shots in the last 20 minutes, three of them by Bustos.
The third of those was the magic moment. Bustos, wearing the captain’s armband, drifted in and out of the Edmonton lines, interchanging with Kadin Chung on the right side as they advanced closer to the box. Finally, Chung found his opening, darting through a square of four FCE players to lay it off for a wide-open Bustos, who threaded a perfect shot in between three defenders and past the goalkeeper.
Bustos, likely realizing he’d scored the biggest goal in club history, said he was “lost for words.” So was Kah, who could barely confine himself in the technical area.
Unfortunately for Kah and Pacific, their 2020 campaign peaked that early September day on Prince Edward Island. Second-round losses to Forge and Cavalry, and a run of conceded penalties, sunk their season, though an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of HFX Wanderers FC was cathartic, especially for Bustos, who grabbed two goals and two assists in the thriller.
Pacific clinched a second-round berth but failed at clearing the final hurdle. Here’s how their 2020 season shaped up:
Record (W-D-L): 4-3-3
Goals scored: 16
Goals against: 13
Goal Difference: +3
Top scorer: Marco Bustos (5)
Assist leader: Marco Bustos (3)
“I cannot comprehend what it would be like with two daughters to be shot seven times with my kids watching. That’s not what we do as humans. I just woke up and felt it. It had to be said.”
– Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah on Black Lives Matter statement to OneSoccer.
“Again, we gave up another penalty and put us at the bottom of an uphill battle,” Pacific midfielder Jamar Dixon said. “We had chances to go forward, we’d get a half-chance and that’s all you can ask for. We have to stop giving away these PKs, they’re too much.”
– Pacific FC’s Jamar Dixon on giving up a record six penalties on PEI.
“Oh, and Marco Bustos for MVP.”
– Pa-Modou Kah, unprompted, in final Island Games press conference.
Most memorable moment
Final Thoughts: Pacific FC’s 2020 Season
CanPL.ca’s Charlie O’Connor-Clarke and Marty Thompson are joined by CanPL.ca contributor Martin Bauman to talk Pacific FC’s 2020 campaign.