Match Analysis: Pacific FC 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Final Score: Pacific FC 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Goalscorers: Campbell 9′, Aparicio 28′, Heard 63′, Diaz 76′; Gauld 14′, 66′, Dajome 90+8′
2021 Canadian Championship
Preliminary Round

Match in a minute or less

The most entertaining match featuring a Canadian Premier League team ever? Quite possibly. Pacific FC pulled off a magical 4-3 win over BC adversaries Vancouver Whitecaps in front of a packed Starlight Stadium to advance in the Canadian Championship.

Though Terran Campbell’s early penalty kick goal was cancelled by Ryan Gauld’s chip minutes later, another first-half marker from Manny Aparicio gave PFC the lead at the interval. Things continued in Pacific’s favour in the second half, as Josh Heard’s magical solo run and Alejandro Diaz’s cool finish in a crowded box were enough to see them past despite two more from the ‘Caps (including one off a penalty rebound at the very end of stoppage time).

Three Observations

Pacific hungrier for second balls from get-go

About thirty seconds into this match, Pacific made a routine clearance from their own half into the far corner of the pitch. Josh Heard, at full sprint, managed to chase it down from about 40 yards out to win a throw-in for his side off goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau. From that moment on, there was no question Pacific was up for this game.

Particularly in the tone-setting first 10 minutes, the home side’s press was relentless, with the front three closing down any Whitecaps defender trying to play out of the back. The purple-shirted side were much quicker on second balls, and Pacific’s midfielders and defenders threw themselves bravely into challenges to clear the ball after heavy touches.

Josh Heard, Manny Aparicio, and Terran Campbell were particularly aggressive in pressure, looking to force mistakes from a Vancouver side looking to play out of the back consistently. The Tridents had just 38% possession, and a pass accuracy of just 64.8% (partly due to their tendency to clear the ball rather than play from the back), but they made good use of the opportunities afforded them.

Ultimately, though, Pacific’s success can be boiled down to one thing: They did not stop running. Ever. Not even for a moment. To a man — all the starting XI and every substitute who came on — Pacific seemed to want this game more than their adversaries.

It’s an exhausted cliché, but Pacific’s determination and effort genuinely did carry them on.

Vancouver dangerous with balls over top

All of the Whitecaps’ most dangerous chances in this game seemed sprung from long balls either played over the top of the Pacific centre-backs or crossed in from deep channels. The first Vancouver goal (a foul? perhaps) was a broken play, but the home side weren’t exactly quick enough getting back to it. Ryan Gauld’s second marker, in the 66th minute, was again the product of a cross that found the Scottish midfielder unmarked.

With Pacific looking to press so much, even from the centre-backs, they did often find themselves a little high and vulnerable to those open-play crosses (of which the ‘Caps attempted 15). For the most part, Lukas MacNaughton and Abdou Samake were able to handle them, and Callum Irving was aggressive enough to shut down a few others, but certainly the prevailing feeling was that if Vancouver was going to score, it would be from a play just like that.

Thankfully, Pacific held out just enough of them — with a little help from the goalpost, of course.

Pacific favours left side without Bustos

The shock news about an hour before this match was that Pacific star Marco Bustos would not be available due to injury. Actually, let’s rephrase that: the news was a shock to Pacific fans and the Whitecaps. Though Pa-Modou Kah kept his cards close to the vest in pregame interviews, the way Pacific played on Thursday suggested they were prepared for the possibility of losing their talisman.

With Josh Heard and Jordan Haynes lining up at left wing and left fullback, respectively, the Tridents sent the majority of their attacks down that side (34.8% of them, according to Opta, but 48% in the first half). Aparicio and, occasionally, Gianni dos Santos also drifted toward that side, with Heard seemingly tasked with the job of primary creative winger in Bustos’ stead.

Haynes, along the left side, was tied for the lead on Pacific in touches with 51, as so much of the game went through him and Heard.

Pacific balanced things out a little in the second half, but their more dangerous attacks still came from the left (including Heard’s brilliant goal). Vancouver right-back Javain Brown had real difficulty containing things on that side; he took on a team-high 17 duels, but won just eight of them, and he gave up possession 26 times (also highest on Vancouver).

A multi-faceted Pacific attack certainly bodes well for them going forward as well. Player of the Match

Josh Heard, Pacific FC

Since we’re not allowed to pick “every Pacific player.” Heard kept the play alive for the second goal, and the third was a dazzling (Bustos-esque?) solo run. The Welsh-Canadian former Whitecaps draft pick has been excellent for Pacific this year, but this may have been the best he’s ever played.

What’s next?

Pacific FC will move on to take on CPL side Cavalry FC in the Canadian Championship quarterfinal, which will take place in mid-September. In the league, Pacific will next be in action this Sunday, August 29 when they take on Valour FC at Starlight Stadium (6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.