2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #22
Pacific FC vs. FC Edmonton
May 14, 2022 at 4:00 pm PT/ 5:00 pm MT
Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC
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Just under three weeks after they last met in CPL action, Pacific FC and FC Edmonton will renew acquaintances once again this weekend, as a league-leading Pacific will host a winless Edmonton at Starlight Stadium on Saturday.
There, both teams will look to avenge what they showed in the first meeting, where they combined for a tense 0-0 draw at Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium, one where they both will have felt that they could’ve been full value for a potential win despite the draw.
Since then, however, both teams have been on completely divergent paths, having built off the result in vastly different ways.
On one side, there are the hosts, Pacific. They might not have bounced back from that game right away, as they then suffered a 2-0 loss to Cavalry FC away a few days later, but they recovered nicely from that loss to then nab a huge 1-0 win away to Atletico Ottawa, doing well to come out on the right side of a top of the table clash in the nation’s capital.
Because of that, they return home to Langford in high spirits, giving them a big boost as they play at home for the first time in a few weeks. They’ll feel like they could’ve done better than they eventually did away from home, but to nab four points out of a possible nine is never a bad return on a road trip, especially given that Pacific is so far undefeated at home this season.
So for them, their main goal will be to keep the good times rolling at home on Saturday. Having built a nice buffer for themselves at the top of the table, they’ll want to keep banking points while they’re in good form and fully healthy, knowing how important that will be as they look to both repeat as CPL Champions, as well as make a run in the Canadian Championship.
“Our group’s prepared,” Pacific FC head coach, James Merriman, said ahead of this game. “They’re excited and looking forward to the match at home, being back home again. So we’re very much focused on ourselves (right now).”
As for the visitors, however, things haven’t been as rosy for Edmonton as of late.
Following up on what they deemed to be a very positive draw against Pacific, they responded to that by losing 3-1 to the HFX Wanderers and 3-0 to Cavalry, pushing them to the bottom of the CPL table. Not only that, but they also found themselves eliminated from the Canadian Championship, as well, falling 2-1 to Cavalry this week, further adding to their pain.
But despite that, they’ll have high hopes heading into this clash. Interestingly, thanks to their most recent draw, that has left the all-time series between these two sides completely even, with both sides winning four games each, to go along with four draws.
RELATED: HIGHLIGHTS: FC Edmonton holds red-hot Pacific FC to scoreless draw in scrappy affair at Clarke Stadium | Match Analysis: FC Edmonton 0-0 Pacific FC — CPL Match #13
Because of that, while it’s never easy to take down the Champions at home, Edmonton will look to channel some of that history into this game, making for what will be hoped to be an even and tightly-contested performance.
“We know it’s gonna be a tough game,” Edmonton head coach, Alan Koch, noted ahead of this clash. “But that doesn’t really change how we go about our business, and what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to push a team forward, and help individual players develop as much as possible, so we’re excited, it’s gonna be a tough challenge, but we’re ready to embrace it.”
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Lessons learned for PFC in first Edmonton clash: While Pacific were ultimately unable to break through Edmonton’s resilient defence in that previous matchup, coming closest through Marco Bustos and Sean Young, that didn’t mean that they struggled on the night. In fact, it was quite the opposite, as despite what the 0-0 scoreline might’ve suggested, Pacific certainly had their chances to break through in that game. Managing to hold 71% of possession, while generating 1.56 Expected Goals (xG) on 10 shots, Pacific had both the territorial control and chances to win the game, yet thanks to some tough finishing and a great performance from Edmonton’s Andreas Vaikla in goal, it just wasn’t meant to be for them on the night. Because of that, as they get set to tackle this challenge of trying to break down Vaikla and the backline of Nyal Higgins, Cale Loughrey and Luke Singh in front of him, it’ll be important for Pacific to build off of what they showed in that first meeting. And despite having every reason to want to rue the result and performance, Merriman was quite positive when reflecting on that performance this week, noting that if his team is able to build off what they showed on that night, they should be in a good place for this game. “To be honest, I thought we did more than enough in the first half (of that game),” Merriman said. “It’s about being a little bit more clinical in the final third composure, taking our chances when we create them, and maybe being more direct, but we’re not going to (otherwise) change our approach or change the way that we play.”
- Edmonton looking to build off CanChamp spirit: While that recent run of results from Edmonton might suggest that things aren’t looking great for Koch’s side right now, don’t be fooled by that – the signs of growth have been evident for them as of late. Especially considering that in their most-recent Canadian Championship clash against Cavalry, they put together arguably their best half of the season in the second stanza of that game, where despite trailing 2-0 they pulled one back and nearly added an equalizer, there is plenty for Edmonton to build off of from that game. Led by the play of Mamadi Camara, Wesley Timoteo and Gabriel Bitar in the middle, along with Tobias Warschewski up front and branching out to a bright spurt from T-Boy Fayia out wide, Edmonton really caused Cavalry problems, showing a potential blueprint for future success through that quintet. Because of that, they’re looking to keep up what they showed in Calgary, as while they ultimately came up just short in completing that comeback, they demonstrated that they aren’t going to be rolled over as a team. And that’s vital. Having already faced a lot of adversity this season, it’d be easy for this young Edmonton side to sit back and fold in the face of pressure. Instead, as they showed in that game, they’re going to fight for every inch, something that they’ll want to keep up in this game, where despite what Koch promised as wholesale changes to his lineup due to fatigue, they’ll want to continue to show that resilience in what will be another tough environment Saturday. “I think everybody can see that there is, to a man, immense character in our group,” Koch said. “When they get punched in the face, they are going to respond. I think what we need to work on, though, is that it shouldn’t take us getting punched in the face to get a reaction.”
- Goalkeeper duel a big one: Interestingly, while they might not grab the headlines right away when looking at this matchup, a key battle to watch on Saturday? In goal, where thanks to Edmonton’s Vaikla, and Pacific’s Callum Irving, this will be a clash between what has arguably been the two best goalkeepers in the CPL this year. Because of that, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the two are able to steal the show in this game. The two league leaders right now in terms of saves, they have both shown a knack for not just making routine stops, but vital ones, too, often helping keep their teams in games with some of their saves. So given that this game is expected to be a bit more wide-open than the last time both sides met, with Pacific tending to play a little more open at home this year, it means that both Vaikla and Irving could stand to have busy nights. Which for both Koch and Merriman, hardly worries them, as they’ll know that if things go south for their sides, they have solid shot-stoppers to lean on. “Andreas can play in MLS, he just needs to make sure you find consistent performances over the course of the whole season,” Koch said of Vaikla. “So now he just has to show that he can and we can’t maintain the elite level that he’s been playing at. So I’ve been highly impressed with him to start the season,” he finished. Meanwhile, Merriman added on Irving: “Callum is an excellent professional, and he’s very, very consistent in his work and his day in day out approach not only to the matches, but to training and what he brings to the locker room, as well,” he continued. “We’re very lucky to have him.”
FC Edmonton wins: 4 || Pacific FC wins: 4 || Draws: 4
April 27, 2022 — FC Edmonton 0-0 Pacific FC
“They’re going to be fresh, they’re going to be hungry, they’re playing on their home pitch – that pretty much sums up what we’re expecting: the Champions.” — FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“We’re going to continue to build on what we’ve done over the last the first part of the season here. So we’re in a good way – we’re confident with the way that we are playing and how we are going about things. (This is) another opportunity for us to continue to grow and develop our style, so we’re looking forward to the match.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman.