‘You don’t realize how hard it is’: Pacific set for Canadian Championship debut

VANCOUVER ISLAND – Pacific FC will take a midweek break from Canadian Premier League action as the club enters the annual Canadian Championship, Canada’s domestic soccer tournament, against Cavalry FC on May 15 at Westhills Stadium.

Founded in 2008, the Canadian Championship now features 13 clubs competing for the Voyageurs Cup; the CPL’s seven founding clubs, three Canadian MLS clubs, as well as PLSQ champion AS Blainville and League1 Ontario winner Vaughan Azzurri. Each round of the Canadian Championship carries its own unique storylines, similar to that of a NBA, MLB or NHL playoff series.

The Canadian Championship runs in parallel to the CPL season and the payoff for a successful run yields even more  mouthwatering opportunities for the winning club.

For instance, success in the Canadian Championship could see Pacific FC welcoming mainland neighbours Vancouver Whitecaps FC to Westhills Stadium for a round three match-up this summer. The two-legged battle would no doubt draw interest from soccer fans across the province and the country as a much-anticipated David vs. Goliath west coast showdown becomes a reality.

Pacific FC defender Blake Smith carries a wealth of experience heading into next week’s tournament, having captured the Voyageurs Cup as a member of Montreal Impact’s 2013 and 2014 Canadian Championship-winning sides.

“It was an awesome experience to be in a group that not only competed in the Canadian Championship but won it—twice,” Blake said. “To be a young player that was a part of winning it was cool. When you’re young starting your professional career, you don’t realize how hard it is to win a trophy.”

“Back then, when you’re a part of an MLS club, you’re kind of expected to get the results,” Smith continued. “Now to be on the other side of things as a CPL team where they consider us to be underdogs in the tournament, it’s an exciting challenge.”

While the prospect of a CPL vs. MLS matchup is an entertaining scenario to consider, the veteran defender knows it’s important to not get too ahead of the immediate task at hand.

“We’re going to take it game-by-game, obviously,”  Smith offered. “We play Edmonton on Sunday first. Then we’ll switch gears to Calgary, approach it like a regular game and be the better team on the day.”

Pacific’s opening round match-up with Cavalry FC kicks off on May 15 at Westhills Stadium before shifting to Calgary’s Spruce Meadows for the return leg on May 22. Determined by aggregate score, the winner will move on to face Forge FC, beginning on June 2.