PREVIEW: Pacific FC vs. Cavalry FC — 2023 Match #8

2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #8
Pacific FC vs. Cavalry FC
April 23, 2023 at 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT
Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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Less than 72 hours after Pacific eliminated Cavalry in the preliminary round of the 2023 Canadian Championship on penalties at Starlight Stadium, both teams are set to do battle once again, this time in Canadian Premier League action.

On the exact same pitch where they played that Canadian Championship match, it promises to be a good clash, as both teams impressed in their opening weekend matches, and combined for a competitive game in midweek.

Two teams that rarely play a boring game, certainly not against each other, there will be motivation from both sides to build off of that midweek game, for differing reasons.

RELATED: MATCH ANALYSIS: Pacific FC oust Cavalry FC on penalties in the Canadian Championship

First, there are the hosts, Pacific, who will want to build off that penalty shootout win, as it came after they came back from going down 1-0 in the game. After being eliminated in the quarter-finals in last year’s Canadian Championship, they had eyes on doing better this time around, and have a chance to prove that now that they’re back at the quarter-finals.

“That was our first test of adversity, and we showed up well,” Pacific head coach, James Merriman, noted of that one.

Now, however, they’ll shift their attention to CPL play, where they’re fresh off a big 1-0 home win over new rivals Vancouver FC, as they took the first edition of the BC CPL derby thanks to a late winner from Manny Aparicio.

As for Cavalry, they’ll want to use that midweek game as fuel for this match. The second straight year where they’ve exited the Canadian Championship via penalties, they’ll feel that they could’ve gone much deeper than they ultimately did, which will leave them frustrated.

“I’ve liked the character of the boys,” Cavalry head coach, Tommy Wheeldon Jr, said despite that result. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we’ve started to gain some good learning lessons early in the season with a couple of good performances on the road.”

Therefore, no better place to direct those emotions than into a rematch with this Pacific side. Having combined for an entertaining 2-2 draw with Forge, they’ll look to build off that performance, one that might’ve been good enough for a road win on most days, had they not been playing the defending champions.

Having both gotten a good look at each other in midweek, both teams will now look to use that to get any sort of edge over the other, which should be intriguing to see how both managers go about that battle, given that their tactical battles are usually akin to good chess matches.

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  • Gazdov settling in nicely for Pacific: Their season might be just two games old, but so far, Pacific will have to be pleased with their defensive numbers, having allowed just one goal across both games. That’s key, as while they were third in the league in goals against last year with 33 against in 28 games (and a further three in two playoff matches), they’ll feel that they could’ve taken a step forward in that area. Yet, with veteran goalkeeper Callum Irving departing, it wasn’t sure if they’d be able to maintain their defensive level, let alone maintain it, given that they were turning over the keys to 19-year-old youngster Emil Gazdov in goal. So far, however, Gazdov has done well to alleviate those concerns, looking more and more comfortable by the minute. He didn’t have much to do in the opening match, but made some key saves in the Canadian Championship match, including a big stop on Daan Klomp in the penalty shootout to help Pacific get through. As a result, it now means he’s conceded just three goals in the four matches he’s played for Pacific, which even though it’s a small sample size, shows that Pacific should be in good hands going forward, especially as he grows more and more comfortable with the little details that come with being a goalkeeper at this level. “It looked like more of a gamble from the outside looking in, internally I’ve never felt that way (about Gazdov),” Merriman said. “This has been the plan, we didn’t sign him just this season, we’ve had him for a couple of years now.” He then added: “He just needed an opportunity, and he got it, and has taken it with both hands so far, he’s been excellent in both games.”
  • Cavalry looking to unlock Musse, Cantave again: In their opening match against Forge, Cavalry were able to find a lot of joy through Ali Musse and Mikaël Cantave, who were electric on both flanks for their side. As a result, Musse helped create his team’s first goal, before Cantave then scored an early goal of the year candidate for their second tally, helping them grab a point in that 2-2 road draw. Despite that, though, they were unable to build off that in midweek, as the pair had relatively anonymous performances in the Canadian Championship, with Pacific doing well to close down the sort of space that the two like to play in. Therefore, look for them to bounce back in this game. In particular, they’ll want to drift inside a bit more than they did, as Pacific’s full backs dominated the touchline battle in that match. If Musse and Cantave can do that, they’ll likely find more space, which as they’ve proven, is usually a recipe for them to create magic, which they’ll certainly want to bring to this game.
  • Both teams leaning on new depth: Part of the realities of an early Canadian Championship campaign is that it’ll force coaches to look a little further down their benches than they usually might’ve at this time of year, knowing that this early wave of games could deplete their rosters if they’re not careful. These teams will certainly be aware of that, too, especially as Cavalry saw Joe Mason and Charlie Trafford exit midweek with knocks, while Manny Aparicio also exited for Pacific before the half hour mark in that game with a knock of his own. Therefore, due to those injuries, and wanting to avoid having any other players pick up any further knocks, look for some rotation in this game. Especially due to there being such a short turnaround time between the matches, some players just won’t be able to go in time for Sunday, which could lead to some exciting opportunities for new players. Given that both teams beefed up their depth this offseason, that’s intriguing, as it could lead to an Udoka Chima debut for Cavalry, or a first Kekuta Manneh appearance for Pacific, for example.


Pacific FC: Gazdov; Dada-Luke, Đidić, Meilleur-Giguère, Vliet; Young, Toussaint, Yeates; Heard, Ongaro, Sellouf (4-3-3)

Cavalry FC: Carducci; Aird, Klomp, Montgomery, Alárcon; Shome, Daley; Cantave, Musse, Escalante; Bevan (4-2-3-1)


Pacific FC wins: 7 || Cavalry FC wins: 10 || Draws: 4

Last meeting:

April 20, 2023 — Pacific FC 1-1 Cavalry FC, Pacific wins 5-3 on PKs (CanChamp)


“You see it, our games have always been so tight over the last couple of years, and you saw that again (in midweek), it was a tight match. We’re two good teams, we’re very competitive, physical, so I think it comes down to mentality, and also the details, and I think that’s where the difference is, a lack of focus, a moment in the final third. (…) We know Cavalry, we know how to prepare, and we know what we need to do on Sunday, so we’ll be organized and we’ll be ready” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

“We’re looking forward to this. You’ve got to have a short-term memory, so what we’ll do is see what we did well and why, as well as what we can do better and how, so we’ll do some review, we’ve got a practice day tomorrow (Saturday), and then we go again on Sunday” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr