No Canadian Championship for Pacific FC after loss in Calgary

What happens in Liverpool stays in Liverpool.

There would be no Champions League-type, miraculous second-leg rally for Pacific FC on Wednesday night.

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There are bad starts. Then there is the disaster Island-based PFC got off to in Calgary, with an own goal off captain Marcus Haber’s leg just two minutes into the game.

Pacific FC was already behind 2-0 to Cavalry FC — heading into the second leg at Spruce Meadows of their first-round Canadian Championship set — thanks to the first-leg loss last week at Westhills Stadium. An already daunting task to stay alive in this nation’s version of the FA Cup became near impossible.

“It was unlucky and not the way we needed at all to start,” PFC head coach Michael Silberbauer said.

“We battled and never gave up, but being down 3-0 on aggregate in the opening minutes makes it very difficult.”

The 27-time Canada-capped Haber scored into the right net in the second half, on a header from a cross by Terran Campbell, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Cavalry FC won 2-1 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.

Julian Buscher made it 2-0 for Cavalry at 67 minutes before former Scottish Premiership Dundee-striker Haber used his six-foot-four frame to reach Campbell’s cross at 74 minutes.

Undefeated Cavalry FC is 4-0 in league play and 2-0 in Cup games under head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and assistant coach and technical director Martin Nash of Victoria. Nash is an SMUS grad and former Vancouver Whitecaps pro who was capped 38 times for Canada.

Cavalry FC advanced to the second round of the Canadian Championship against fellow Canadian Premier League club Forge FC of Hamilton on June 4 and June 12. Forge FC drew a first-round bye.

The Cavalry-Forge winner will meet the Whitecaps of Major League Soccer in a home-and-home July 10 and July 24. The Whitecaps and fellow MLS club Montreal Impact enter the competition in the third round. As defending Canadian Championship Voyageurs Cup champion, Toronto FC of MLS has a bye into the semifinal stage.

The five-round, 13-team, 24-match Canadian Championship features the three Canadian MLS clubs, seven CPL teams, the two championship teams from the semi-pro League-1 Ontario and the Première ligue du Soccer du Québec, along with the Ottawa Fury from the pro United Soccer League.

The USL’s amateur arm, USL 2, which includes the Victoria Highlanders, is not included.

Although PFC (1-2-2 in league play and 0-2 in Cup) is done early, the Canadian Championship runs to Sept. 25 with the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final. The champion will earn Canada’s berth into the 2020 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League against the domestic pro-club champions and runners-up of North America and Central America.

The U.S. and Mexico get four berths each and Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama one berth each.

Three Voyageurs Cup champions have reached the quarter-finals or better in the CONCACAF Champions League since 2008. Toronto FC was a semifinalist in 2011-12 and grand finalist in 2018, losing the final to Guadalajara. Mexican clubs have won the title every year since 2006. The Whitecaps were semifinalists in 2016-17.

Wednesday’s Cup match in Calgary was the first of four consecutive road games for PFC, with three CPL league games upcoming in Halifax, Toronto and Winnipeg. PFC does not return to Westhills Stadium until a June 23 game against FC Edmonton.

“It’s a crazy schedule, but there are no excuses,” said PFC midfielder Ben Fisk, before departing for Calgary.

Haber has been at this a long time.

“You learn to take care of yourself on the road in terms of nutrition and sleep,” said the 30-year-old, who has two goals on the season.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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