Final Score: Pacific FC 2-0 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: Bustos (3′), Dos Santos (86′)
Game of the 2021 season: 34
CPL match: 169
Match in a minute or less
Pacific FC’s return to Starlight Stadium ended with three points in style in what was ultimately a convincing 2-0 win over Cavalry FC on Friday. Playing in front of Tridents supporters for the first time in a purple shirt, Marco Bustos needed just three minutes to open his account in Langford and thanks in large part to the efforts of Marco Carducci in the Cavalry goal, it remained 1-0 until the 86th minute before Gianni Dos Santos provided the insurance marker within moments of his introduction.
Return of Blasco to Pacific attack
After missing out on the opening eight matches of the season in the bubble due to personal reasons, Victor Blasco was back in the starting lineup for Pacific and looked right at home beside Alejandro Diaz and Marco Bustos in the team’s front three.
Leading the Tridents with four shots on target and running beyond Diaz dropping deep with regularity, Blasco impressed in his 57 minutes on the pitch — the only thing missing was a goal to solidify his efforts in the eyes of head coach Pa-Modou Kah:
“I think Victor was excellent, I think he deserved a goal… he showed his professionalism, he was away dealing with something that you don’t wish on nobody. but when he came back he has such a focus and it was great to see it during a game, if he had capped it off with a goal, it would have been a magical night for him and for the team.”
While Pacific has far from struggled to score so far this season, leading the league with 15 goals in nine matches played, Blasco brings a different dynamic to the attacking unit, one which his side can use to exploit the opposition when they choose to focus on shutting down Bustos according to Kah: “When teams focus on Marco, he (Victor) can also be an outlet for us and be very dangerous.”
Blasco’s seamless return to the squad may have turned heads among media and supporters on Saturday but Bustos suggests its a testament to the collective effort of Pacific’s attacking core and the cohesion they’ve developed: “I think every guy that’s in the front line, whether it’s guys on the bench, guy’s starting, I think we all have good chemistry. We work a lot on the attack in training and everyone’s putting in the hard work which is important if you want to score goals and you want to succeed.”
Tridents flex depth in closing stages
The aforementioned praise for the Pacific front three was a big part of the reason Cavalry struggled to build with attacking intent on too many occasions as the sustained pressure of their front line and supporting midfielders forced the Cavs into several turnovers and challenges in transition.
As impressive as the entire starting XI was for the hosts, it was perhaps more notable just how much strength Kah was able to introduce into the game through substitutes with Ollie Bassett, Josh Heard, Matthew Baldisimo and Gianni Dos Santos all featuring in the second half to help see out their sides early lead. With Blasco and Manuel Aparicio still getting up to full match fitness, bringing on Bassett and Heard just before the hour mark ensured Pacific could continue to press with the sort of energy that would be tough to sustain over 90 minutes, particularly for players with limited match reps under their belt so far.
Behind the front three, the midfield for Kah served as a real road block for Cavalry attacking moves as Baldisimo relived skipper Jamar Dixon to provide a second wind in the middle of the park for the closing quarter of an hour. While the Pacific attackers’ work rate can’t be dismissed, it was the middle portion of the field that Cavs coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. felt his group couldn’t solve on the night: “If you look at our statistics, we played out the back quite well, it was the next layer of pressure, being able to find and connect with our front unit, I think that’s where the issue was. We couldn’t make it stick up there and then generate an overload like we’ve done in previous games.”
Much of the contributions from the Pacific bench were in the form of defensive efforts — that is until the cameo from Dos Santos who scored almost immediately upon stepping onto the turf.
Chance creation scarce from Cavalry
Chasing the game nearly from the off after Bustos scored, the visitors couldn’t find an answer at the other end as Cavalry failed to threaten Callum Irving in the Pacific goal often enough — their only shot on target in the second 45′ a strike from a long way out by David Norman Jr. with roughly ten minutes to go.
Wheeldon Jr. opted to go with a 3-4-2-1 shape, a decision largely dictated by available personnel (more on that later), with Anthony Novak leading the line. Novak appeared to have found an equalizer midway through the first half but his volleyed finish was ruled out by the linesman for offside. Exiting in the 81st minute looking a frustrated figure, Novak finished the game with only 22 touches and picked up a caution for his troubles.
Jose Escalante was one of the lone bright spots going forward for Wheeldon Jr., whipping in a game high 11 crosses (eight from open play) from the left flank, but with difficulties in getting bodies pushed up the pitch and in advanced positions, Escalante’s deliveries were often all for not on Saturday.
The injury bug has hit Cavalry hard of late and the depth up front has taken a significant hit as a result with Ali Musse and Ahinga Selemani missing out against Pacific altogether and Joe Mason and Sergio Camargo both not fit enough to feature from the start.
Goalscoring has been sporadic for the Cavs so far this season, at one point going four straight games in the bubble without finding the back of the net. If they hope to retain their playoff position and keep themselves in the contender conversation, they’ll need to get attacking options fit and find the right combination to spark this offense down the stretch.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Marco Bustos, Pacific FC
After opening the scoring with a mazy run in the area and a crafty finish in the early goings, Bustos played provider on the second goal — sending Dos Santos in all alone with a perfectly weighted ball over the top. The Pacific right winger was instrumental in attack all evening as he led his side with six key passes and nine crosses and was involved in a team high 17 duels, the latest game breaking performance from a player with a league-wide reputation for taking over matches.
Cavalry will play on their own pitch for the first time this season when they host FC Edmonton in the latest edition of ‘Al Classico’ at ATCO Field on Tuesday evening (9 pm ET/7 pm MT). Pacific continues their homestand on Wednesday as they play host to Valour FC (8:30 pm CT/6:30 pm PT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.