There are grand exits, and then there is how Pacific FC bowed out Tuesday night, by blowing the doors off the joint. PFC beat the championship-game bound HFX Wanderers of Halifax 5-0 to conclude its Canadian Premier League pandemic bubble sojourn in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
The artful Marco Bustos scored twice for PFC to finish the tournament with five goals and as runner-up for the Golden Boot behind Akeem Garcia, who finished with six goals for HFX. Alex Diaz, with his third goal of the tournament, Victor Blasco with his second and Terran Campbell, with his first after placing tied for second in the Golden Boot sweepstakes last season, also scored as PFC built a 4-0 first-half lead.
The game was meaningless in the standings for both clubs. But it sure felt good just the same for PFC, which had already been eliminated from championship contention, after dropping the first two games of the playoff group stage 3-1 to Cavalry FC and 2-0 to Forge FC after qualifying for the playoff round by going 3-2-2 in the eight-team opening round-robin stage.
“Pride was the word going into the game,” said the former MLS Vancouver Whitecaps prospect Bustos, who was capped six times for Candaa.
PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah said he believes Bustos, who also led the tournament with three assists, has stated his case for 2020 CPL MVP.
“Marco put in a hell of a shift. There is no such thing as a meaningless game. We finished the chances we didn’t earlier in the tournament. This is definitely the way to go into next season,” said Kah.
HFX, which finished last in the league in 2019, was already guaranteed a berth in the 2020 CPL championship game by Forge FC’s 1-0 victory over Cavalry earlier in the day Tuesday as 18-time Canada-capped Kyle Bekker set up former Toronto FC striker Mo Babouli for the first-half goal which eliminated the Calgary club.
“We’ve shown a lot of discipline in the tournament with the exception of tonight,” said HFX head coach Stephen Hart, following the loss to PFC.
“Even with the roster changes, it’s unacceptable. We were second best in everything, especially in the first half. Pacific wanted to get something [before leaving the tournament] and they showed it. This could work in our favour. Saturday is a fresh game.”
Former national-team head coach Hart was referring to the CPL championship game, in which HFX will meet Forge, from Hamilton, Ont., Saturday at 11 a.m. PDT on CBC. The winner will hoist the North Star Shield and advance to meet the top Canadian team from Major League Soccer for the Canadian Championship, this nation’s FA Cup-type title. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC are currently playing in a Canada-only MLS tournament to decide who will advance against the CPL champion for the Voyageurs Cup. It is down to TFC and Montreal with the Whitecaps eliminated. The Voyageurs Cup champion will represent Canada in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League against the club champions from the U.S., Mexico, Central America and Caribbean.