As the Canadian Premier League’s 2022 season reaches the midway point for most teams, the faculty at CanPL.ca have seen fit to evaluate each club’s first half of the campaign. All five panelists have assigned a letter grade to every side for their body of work so far, with some advice and areas for improvement for the remaining half of the year as well.
Two report cards will be released per day over the course of this week. Up next: Pacific FC.
Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic: It’s been a story of two seasons so far for Pacific — a red-hot start, and an ice-cold stretch that followed. As a result, they find themselves third in the standings — not bad, considering their recent form, but also feels a bit lower than the defending champions would’ve liked to be at this stage, especially considering that they currently hold a negative goal difference. There have been some positives, such as the play of newcomers Amer Đidić, Nathan Mavila and Djenairo Daniels, as well as some excellent growth from Gianni Dos Santos, on top of the always-reliable Manny Aparicio, Marco Bustos and Alejandro Diaz, but it still feels like this group has another gear to hit. As they look to repeat as champions, that much is expected.
Benedict Rhodes: The reigning champions came flying out of the gates, quickly picking up a lot of points and establishing a gap between themselves and the rest of the pack. They then had a nearly two-month winless run which saw them drop down the standings, but they’ve hung onto their playoff spot. It’s been a difficult stretch, but after a win in Edmonton, will try to build some momentum again.
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Pacific’s form in the first month of the season suggested they hadn’t missed a beat from their championship season despite how many key players they’d lost in the offseason — not to mention coach Pa-Modou Kah. Since the end of May, though, the consistency has slipped: they’ve scored in just three of their six games since the start of June, winning one of them, and in that stretch they were beaten soundly by both Forge and Halifax (at home). New gaffer James Merriman has not been afraid to make tough lineup decisions when things aren’t clicking, giving the likes of Marco Bustos and Josh Heard bench roles in several games, but those star players are the ones who need to recapture the swagger that made them the most fearsome attack in the league in April (and last year). A full return for Manny Aparicio could also prove a massive boost.
Kristian Jack: The 2021 champions flew out of the gates faster than any team at the start of the season and had a five-point lead at the top after one month. A seven-game winless run followed which exposed their weaknesses. With Manny Aparicio sidelined through injury, their midfield lost any connections to the forwards, and lacked athleticism and distribution from deep to take advantage of long diagonal balls to get the best out of their wingers. Suddenly the team looked like they had little depth as fringe players struggled for form and for two months they won fewer games than FC Edmonton.
Mitchell Tierney: Pacific looked to be running away with the league in the early part of the season, only for a lack of depth and poor road form to catch up with them. Only Edmonton has conceded more goals this season, and they have been on the wrong side of some lopsided results in recent weeks. With that being said, they are still just two points off of the top of the table, and considering how many key parts they lost this offseason that is a decent start.
Second Half Outlook:
Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic: A tough summer lies ahead for Pacific, who will face a whole bevy of road games, as well as a journey into the depths of Concacaf. Because of that, things don’t get any easier for them here, meaning that they’re going to have to find a way to get their form back in quite trying circumstances. To be fair, welcoming back Aparicio from a knee injury is going to help them in that quest, but he can only do so much for Pacific. Especially with the underlying numbers not exactly refuting their claim of not being worthy of a team with a negative goal differential, they’ll have to turn things around, quickly, helping them finish the year on a high note.
Benedict Rhodes: Pacific clearly have the talent to be a top team in the CPL, and boast some of the league’s top players, but they need to start playing like it. They can’t afford another dry spell like the one they just had, and need to get the most from everyone if they’re to repeat as champions.
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Much depends on what this team looks like once Aparicio is starting week-in and week-out again, but ultimately this is a side that’s at its best when the front three is ruthless and in sync. Díaz must continue getting in the right spots for one-touch finishes, Heard needs to keep driving into the box and providing energy, and Bustos needs to get on the ball and remind everyone why he’s perhaps the most talented attacker in the league. They have plenty of talent at the back, but the defensive organization could stand to improve as well. Expect the Tridents to continue jockeying for position at the top of the table, with a fairly well-balanced schedule to end the year. That said, they begin their Concacaf League adventure soon, which will be a fascinating new test of this side’s quality and depth.
Kristian Jack: Pacific have too much attacking talent to not score goals but know they simply have to stop making key mistakes in defence. Conceding 15 goals in their last seven games (one against each team) is disturbing and they cannot rely on the best front three in the league to outscore the opposition. One interesting stat is they have now gained just 36 points in their last 26 games, showing they have been underachieving for too long, but in between they won the games that mattered and because of that the champions remain a real contender to win it all. They must now find more consistency to get a spot in the top four in October.
Mitchell Tierney: It is clear that the club could use reinforcements if they want to stay above the playoff line. Amer Didic and Nathan Mavila have been decent replacements at the back but the club has yet to truly replace Ollie Bassett or Alessandro Hojabrpour in the midfield, who have both been excellent with Ottawa and Forge respectively. Manny Aparicio’s absence of late has only made this issue worse. They have still shown enough of a tendency to score their way out of problems that they look like a playoff contender, with Djenairo Daniels adding a nice one-two punch with golden boot leader Alejandro Diaz of late.