PREVIEW: Pacific FC vs. York United — CPL Match #26

2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #26
Pacific FC vs. York United
May 20, 2022 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET
Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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League leaders Pacific FC are looking to keep the good times rolling at home this weekend, as they play host to York United at Starlight Stadium, coming as part of an entertaining slate of long weekend games in the CPL. 

Currently finding themselves eight points ahead of their next competitors in first place, sitting comfortably ahead of the five-team logjam that has developed between second and sixth, Pacific has a great chance to further extend their lead atop the standings in this game. So far undefeated at home, with an impressive five wins, one loss and a draw through seven games, they’ve been the team to beat so far this season, and will look to keep that up in this game. 

Against York, however, their task won’t be easy. York may find themselves stuck in that aforementioned five-team logjam at the moment, eager to break free of it, but they’ve proven to be dominant defensively this year, entering this game with a league-low 3.25 Expected Goals (xG) allowed, to go along with just five goals conceded in six games, which is very impressive.

Especially as they get set to face off against the league’s top offence, as Pacific enters this game with a league-leading xG for of 13.01, to go along with 10 goals, it’ll be a great test of York’s defence, who has so far stepped up to the task in every game that they’ve played.

Because of that, look for York’s defensive core to not miss a beat in this game. Starting in goal with Niko Giantsopoulos, before moving out to his back 4 in front of him with Diyaeddine Abzi, Dominick Zator, Jordan Wilson (or Roger Thompson) and Chrisnovic N’Sa, they’ve become one of the more formidable units for a reason, with their chemistry, ability to read the game and flexibility all being key assets for them. 

Knowing that their defence is going to need to be huge if they’re to surprise onlookers and snatch a road win from Pacific, while also narrowing the gap between themselves and the leaders, York will need to remain on task at the back all game long. So while they’ll have their hands full with Pacific’s attacking options in their quest to do that, starting with the league’s leading scorer, Alejandro Diaz, and his dangerous teammates, including Marco Bustos, Josh Heard and Manny Aparicio, York feel that they have what it takes to neutralize those threats.

“I think we’ve been trying to be organized (defensively) and we’ve been good at it,” York United head coach, Martin Nash, said of his team’s defensive prowess this season. “I think that’s the main thing that you look at from the teams that have won the league the last few years, it’s always the team with the lowest goal difference or goals against. So it was something I was aware of, and wanted to be really solid defensively this year (because of that). And I think we’ve accomplished that.”

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Meanwhile, over on Pacific’s side, they’ll be eager to keep the good times rolling at home. With a chance to make it five home wins out of five to start the year, they want to keep making Starlight Stadium a fortress, which considering that they’ve lost just twice in 14 games at the stadium since last summer, is something they’ve arguably already done.

“It’s still early but we’re happy where we’re at,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, said this week. “We’re working hard, we’re not content or getting complacent. We know it’s early, but the group is in a good place and in a good spirit.”

Speaking of those two Pacific home losses for a second, however, something worth noting about them? One of them just happened to be a 2-1 loss to York United last year in what ended up being their last home game of the 2021 campaign, something that surely left a sour taste in Pacific’s mouth despite them then going on to win the championship (albeit all on the road).

Yet, that just shows how pesky York has been against Pacific in their history, having won four and drawn three of nine matchups between the two sides, something that they’ll want to maintain on Friday, keeping the upper edge in this matchup.

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  • Pacific toys around with continued back three experiment: So far despite their strong underlying numbers, led by their league-leading attack, and a very solid defence, that doesn’t mean that Pacific is fully satisfied with where they’re at right now as a team. Of course, they’ve got a lot to be happy about with their results, especially seeing how they’ve been able to grab them, but there’s no doubt that they’ve still got another gear to reach as a team. And one way that they might try and reach it? The continued use of a back three, which they pulled out with great success for the first time last weekend against Edmonton, making some wonder if they might use it again. Which, from the sounds of it, looks like it could most definitely be the case, as Merriman admitted this week that it could be a way to get the most out of his team. And considering that he has a strong group of centre backs at his disposal, which includes Amer Didic, Abdou Samake and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, as well as a deep group of full backs, consisting of Kunle Dada-Luke, Nathan Mavila, Jordan Haynes and Georges Mukumbilwa, it could prove to be a shrewd move. As long as they don’t lose any solidity in the midfield, it only makes sense for Merriman’s crew, meaning that game might not be the last time we see them in that set-up. “It’s something that we can use, that we felt good about,” Merriman said. “We felt confident in our first time in that structure, in that set-up, so it’s something that we can use, as we have players that suit that system.” He later admitted: “It’s something that we’d like to use more of in the future.”
  • York looking to get more out of attack: For all of the talk of York’s strong defence, however, it’s worth noting that their attack hasn’t necessarily matched that, helping explain why they’ve been unable to turn their strong underlying defensive numbers into more wins. Yet, that just shows why it’s quietly become their biggest area of concern so far this year. Despite finishing fourth in CPL scoring last year, goals have been a bit harder to find this season, as they currently sit second-last in the league in that mark at the moment, which is a bit of a drop-off for them. Because of that, they’re eager to find a way to get back to their scoring ways once again. The quality is there, as they have the second-leading scorer in the league in Osaze De Rosario, to go along with dangerous options such as Lowell Wright, Isiah Johnston and newcomers Mouhamadou Kane and Lisandro Cabrera, but work is still needed to make that group gel, especially as many of them have struggled with injuries and other absences. So while they’ll be in tough to find their feet against Pacific’s solid defence, considering that Pacific has had just one clean sheet in seven games this season, York could be primed to score at least one, and maybe from there, they’ll be able to find a way to add a couple more on top of that to finally get their feet going offensively this year. “It’s just getting guys healthy,” Nash said of his team’s attacking struggles. “So that’s been a bit frustrating, that we’ve not really been healthy. And when you’re not healthy, you’re putting new guys together almost every game because of injuries, so it’s tough to be in a rhythm. So we’ve not really gotten into too much of a rhythm at the attacking end, although we’ve been creating enough opportunities, we just haven’t been finishing, as well.”
  • Unique scheduling quirk provides special matchup: Interestingly, however, it’s worth noting that this game presents quite the unique scheduling quirk, providing something for both managers to chew on as they continue their preparations for Friday. That is, for those unaware, the fact that both teams will actually meet again in their next game, which is also at Starlight Stadium, just days later. Coming as part of the Canadian Championship on Tuesday, with a spot in the semi-finals of that tournament on the line, that’ll also be a huge game for both teams, one that could potentially define their seasons. So while this first match is also massively important for both sides, especially given how the league table has developed, that dangling carrot of the midweek match could loom large, especially depending on how this game develops. Of course, both managers feel that the distraction of that game shouldn’t loom too large, urging that they’ll take this set one game at a time, but if one of the two grabs a lead in the first game, don’t be surprised if game management comes into play, with a keen eye on Tuesday. “Both matches are very important for us, and we’re going to take it one game at a time.” Merriman said from Pacific’s perspective. “That’s where our focus is, and then we’ll change our focus to the next match, the cup match.”  Nash then added on his end: “I’m just concentrating on Friday right now, obviously I looked at Tuesday, trying to look at what both games look like somewhat, but really, we’re really looking as a staff to prepare the team for tomorrow’s game. I think it’s the biggest one first, and then we’ll worry about the cup after.”



Pacific FC wins: 2 || York United wins: 4 || Draws: 3

Previous match:

October 30, 2021 — Pacific FC 1-2 York United


“We’re happy with where we’re at. We know that there’s more to come and that it’s still very early in the season and our best football is yet to come. So we’re working hard to continue to improve and work on areas that we need to improve on, and in areas that we’re doing well, continue to develop those and work hard at that, as well as good relationships and chemistry within the players, within the groups. We’ve seen our depth as well, and there’s more to come for players that haven’t got opportunities, too. So I think it’s still early but you know, we’re happy where we’re at.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman.

“We’re gonna have to be good, we’re gonna have to get pressure on the ball, especially in our half, and we have to be solid defensively because they’re probably the most potent attacking team in the league. So we got to be at our best when we’re in our own end, but I think it starts with getting pressure on them higher up the pitch.” — York United head coach Martin Nash.