PREVIEW: Vancouver FC vs. Pacific FC — 2024 Match #26

2024 CPL Regular Season — Match #26
Vancouver FC vs. Pacific FC
May 25, 2024 at 3 p.m. PT
Willoughby Community Park in Langley, British Columbia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.

After combining for four entertaining clashes in 2023, Vancouver FC and Pacific FC are set to do battle for the first time in 2024  at Langley’s Willoughby Community Park on Saturday afternoon.

The first ‘Salish Sea Derby’ match between these two BC rivals since Vancouver FC downed Pacific FC 2-1 on September 30th of last year, this matchup promises to be a good one for many reasons, too.

From the history that will carry over from those four previous matchups, to the strong presence that both teams fans will have, and the proximity of both teams, there will be no shortage of fuel to add to this game.

Plus, it’s worth noting that this may be the biggest derby matchup yet between both sides, too, other than maybe their first-ever meeting back in April of 2023. Thanks to strong starts, Pacific enters this game in second-place in the CPL table with 11 points, while Vancouver is right behind them in third with 10 points, making this a true top-of-the-table clash.

For a fixture that never needs any added motivation to push both teams to win, that’s a huge factor, as both teams will be battling to pick up a crucial win, one that could push them up to second place by the end of the CPL’s seventh matchday.

On one side, there’s Vancouver, who are coming off a massive victory of their own, having defeated Forge 2-1 on the road last weekend. Their first road victory of the season, and just their fourth in their history, that result will be seen as a big psychological lift to their group, further adding legitimacy to their strong start to the year.

Of course, their place in the table is just as big of a sign of how strong they’ve been, but beating a side like Forge away from home adds credence to what they’ve done so far when at their best, which is to find timely goals offensively, while knowing when to lock things down defensively, which they’ll look to emulate against Pacific.

“I think the team is integrating and marinating and really becoming a unit that we can build something special with,” Vancouver’s head coach, Afshin Ghotbi, said this week. “That victory at Forge was something they will remember, and the players were very excited to come to training (because of it), we had a great week of preparation.”

Speaking of Pacific, they’re licking their wounds right now, as they’re coming off a 1-0 loss to Atlético Ottawa, in which they conceded a goal and lost for the first time this CPL season, after entering that game with five straight clean sheets and a record of 3W-2D-0L.

Because of that, they’re eager to get back on the saddle and get back to what they showed in their previous five games, where it felt like they might never concede again, which gave them a shot at winning each game they played.

“We want to bounce back and we want a big reaction based on our result last match,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, said this week. “So we’re excited to get across the water and play our first derby match of the season.”

In terms of player availability, Pacific took a big hit in that game, as Aly Ndom, Adonijah Reid and Sean Young picked up injuries, joining an already injured Ayman Sellouf on Pacific’s list of absentees. The good news for Pacific is that Young, Sellouf and Reid are back in training and could feature in this game, but Ndom has now been ruled out for the season with an Achilles injury, joining the suspended Reon Moore on the sidelines for Saturday.

As for Vancouver, just David Norman Jr remains on the sidelines after an injury sustained earlier this month, although Ghotbi didn’t issue an update on when he might be set to return to action.

Photo Credit: Vancouver FC/Beau Chevalier


  • Fuel of derby expected to be a big factor: It almost goes without saying – derby matches always seem to mean more. Yet, there are often long-standing factors that can play a role in that, with history often being an important role in these sort of matchups. Because of that, it made it interesting to see how both teams would respond to the creation of this derby as they played each other for the first time last year. Turns out, they’d waste no time in making sure this is a derby to watch in the CPL, as the intensity was palpable right from the first matchup, creating some phenomenal matches. From former Pacific midfielder Manny Aparicio scoring a late winner for the Tridents and then shushing Vancouver’s away fans in the first matchup, to Pacific’s Josh Heard’s long distance screamer against former teammate Callum Irving in game #2, Vancouver’s dramatic Gabriel Bitar-inspired comeback in game #3, or Vasco Fry’s screamer that ensured Vancouver would level the season series with a win in game #4, there were a lot of memories created in year one, which some will expect to carry over to year two. For what it’s worth, it sounds like that’s already begun to happen – both teams met in a feisty preseason clash on Vancouver Island earlier this year, so now that they’re getting set to meet with relatively big stakes on the line, one has to imagine fireworks will be present when they do battle in Langley on Saturday.


  • Will Pacific’s offence step up? Despite their position in the table, Pacific’s strong start hasn’t come without a desire to seek internal improvement, and the biggest one remains the offence, which one has to imagine is an area of their game they’ve started to worry about. In fact, after they were shut out by Atlético Ottawa, that marked the third game they were held scoreless out of the six they’ve now played in CPL action, meaning they’ve been held scoreless as often as they’ve found the net. Plus, even in the games where they’ve scored, they’ve yet to have a true offensive outburst, sitting with just five goals in six games, having only scored in back-to-back games once. That hasn’t hurt them, as they’ve been elite defensively, but goals will only help them turn their strong defensive performances into more results. Because of that, expect Pacific to be more aggressive offensively, especially with Sellouf’s return to the squad this week. In particular, they feel they can be more aggressive and dangerous with how they attack their opponents box, something that one has to imagine they do against Vancouver, with Dario Zanatta expected to play a big role in that up front, more specifically. “We went through a little period of this last season,” Merriman said. “We need to we need to be more aggressive in attacking the goal and our decision making, we also need to be more direct at times, and in the the final third and in their final action, players need to take that decision to go to goal themselves and be selfish at times, and selfless at others.”


  • Vancouver relishing improved mentality in group: Certainly, there’s no doubt that this Vancouver side is much improved as they continue their second full season as a club, as some of the big signings they’ve made this offseason have already stepped up big for them amid their strong start. Yet, while they’re certainly a club armed with more individual talent, that’s arguably not the biggest improvement they’ve made, and that’s instead their mentality, which has been on full display over the past few weeks. After a big dip in performances in losses to York United and Cavalry, in which they fell by a combined score of 6-1, one expected their next three games against Atlético Ottawa, Forge and Pacific, the three top teams in the CPL table, to be quite the challenge for them to get anything out of. That hasn’t fazed Vancouver, however, who drew Ottawa and then beat Forge, giving them a chance to close out this tough stretch on quite the note if they can get a victory in this game. However, that’s just a sign of the mentality that they’ve got in this group – after struggling to manage the highs and lows of a season in 2023, they’re more equipped to take things one half at a time, not getting too up or down depending on if things go their way or not. It may seem simple, but that can make a huge difference for a team, and it’s allowed them to recover after that two-game dip, and they’ll look to show off that mentality once again in this crucial derby matchup. “We played two different games at two different venues against two different very good opponents,” Ghotbi said of his team’s last two matches. “And I think that shows is that the team is growing and maturing, so I’m very excited about how we behave and perform in a derby with completely different emotional demands.”



Vancouver FC: Irving; Chung, Enyou, Romeo, Gee; Fry, Garcia; Cantave, Bitar; Díaz, Dyer (4-2-2-2)

Pacific FC: Gazdov; Dada-Luke, Quintana, Meilleur-Giguère, Lajeunesse; Heard, Young, Toussaint, Sellouf; Tîrcoveanu, Zanatta (4-4-2)


Vancouver FC wins: 2 || Pacific FC wins: 2  || Draws: 0

Last meeting:

Sep 30, 2023 — Pacific FC 1-2 Vancouver FC


“It’s a very special game for all of the players and myself. I love derbies, derbies are a great opportunity to promote the game to local fans, and it creates the kind of stories and history that will be talked about for years to come. We’ve already seen that in past games between Pacific and Vancouver FC, even though it’s only one year old, it’s become a very exciting derby, and and there’s a lot of love off the field, we care about each other and support each other, but when we play against each other, it’s a war, so I’m really excited about this derby, and we’re hoping to show well, and I’m sure they will show well, so hopefully it’s an exciting game.” — Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi

“It’s a perfect opportunity because it’s a derby match, it’s a game that has a lot of emotion, but it’s also a game that’s going to showcase a lot of our local talent here, we have around 20 BC born players between the two squads, and that’s something that fans can see and get an idea of where the game’s headed here locally (in BC), so hopefully we can bring that quality. I think it’s going to be a very exciting match, like most derbies are, and it’ll be a great moment for the clubs and any new fans coming to watch.” — Vancouver FC defender Kadin Chung

“It’s growing quickly. It’s only the second season (of the derby), but you had four different types of matches last season, very competitive and physical matches, and that naturally comes with a derby. We know a lot of the players there have joined Vancouver after having once wore our jersey, so it’s really important for the fans to win, and we need to we need to play for them as well. It’s our club, Pacific Football Club, playing Vancouver Football Club, so it’s important for our players to understand that and what a derby match means, as for our fans it’s very, very important” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

“It’s great. It’s great for the game in this country, it’s an exciting one, for sure. It’s cool that I know a bunch of our fans are hopping on buses and then hopping on the ferry to come watch the game, and having the opportunity to do that is really cool. This is a much easier game to do that for then to hop on a plane to go to Halifax, right, so it’s cool that we’re able to do this (as a club).” — Pacific FC forward Josh Heard