VICTORIA – It was too much to hope for Pacific FC fans, wasn’t it?
That Cavalry FC, the defending Spring champions, would conceivably lose two matches in a row after turning the Spring calendar into a speedbag for the better part of two months: Dominique Malonga goals and Marco Carducci clean sheets and Tommy Wheeldon Jr. fist-pumps. That the Cavs would not be hungry for revenge after July 1st, just five days prior, when Pacific came away with an emphatic 3-1 win on Canada Day, the final match of the Spring season. That things might finally be different for the upstart Vancouver Island club and its insistence to #TrustTheKids.
It was not the start Pacific had hoped for.
Not after Monday’s jubilant win. Not with a crowd of 2,399 rainbow-clad supporters, here to celebrate the Langford club’s Pride Day, the afternoon before Victoria’s annual Pride Parade. Not with the most prized opportunity for any club who has seen its share of misfortune and wishes to forget it: a blank slate, and the chance to start something new.
“It felt like there was a little bit of energy missing in the team in the first half,” Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer told reporters after the match, “and Calgary is not the champion for nothing; they punished our mistakes brutally.”
Sure, there were excuses, if one wanted to search for them.
PFC was down to just four players on its bench, the result of injuries that have decimated the club’s roster through the opening three months of Canadian Premier League action. The normally stalwart Kadin Chung was out, pushing 19-year-old Emile Legault to right-back, and midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour to centre-back.
Marcus Haber’s 6’4″ attacking frame was but a distant fantasy, the Vancouver native still rehabbing from a knee injury sustained June 20th in Winnipeg. Lukas MacNaughton and Hendrik Starostzik were still out, and Panamanian import Alexander Gonzalez, the sure-footed defensive midfielder through whom Pacific’s possession has so often tended to flow, was suspended with a red card—the first of two games he’ll miss after his Canada Day ejection.
There were bright spots for Pacific, too: second-half goals from Ben Fisk and Terran Campbell provided enough for PFC to leave with some consolation in a 3-2 loss.
Still, this will feel like a missed opportunity for Pacific FC, facing a Cavalry FC squad at home without English left-back Nathan Mavila, Calgary native Dean Northover, and Trinity Western University alum Joel Waterman in the Starting XI. Combined, the three played 2,060 minutes in the Cavs’ Spring season. Waterman never missed a match.
“First half, we were terrible. We were a shadow of the team we’ve been these last few games, and you saw it today. It was a game of two halves,” Fisk told reporters post-match. “I think they weren’t happy that we beat them last week, and we weren’t happy that they won the league.”
The frustration showed. Matthew Baldisimo will be suspended for the next game after his yellow card in the 58th minute. Victor Blasco picked up his own yellow seven minutes later after one too many complaints.
“We showed what we were capable of, but we threw it away with that first-half performance,” said Fisk. “Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, and individually, there’s lots we need to improve: each and every one of us.”
It is far too early, of course, to sound Pacific’s death knell. One game does not define a season.
“It’s not all bad,” Fisk continued. “The last few weeks, we’ve been playing the best football we’ve played all season, and including the second half today.”
But the path for Pacific will be an uphill one, and Saturday’s result at Westhills further cements this truth: Cavalry FC are still the team to beat. Everything else is secondary.