Pacific FC aims to go out with heads held high

Pacific FC aims on exiting the Canadian Premier League bubble with heads held high. PFC has lost both its playoff-group games and cannot reach the CPL championship final Saturday (11 a.m. PDT on CBC). The Vancouver Island club can, however, still wreak some havoc today in its final game against HFX Wanderers of Halifax (5 p.m. PDT on OneSoccer). The Wanderers can advance to the championship game with a win or draw against PFC. The Haligonians can also qualify if PFC wins but would need help in that situation – a victory by Cavalry FC of Calgary over defending-champion Forge FC of Hamilton in today’s other game. A win or draw by Forge against Calgary will assure the Hamilton club a berth in the final. Forge can also qualify with a loss, if PFC beats HFX.

It’s not the spoiler role that matters, but pride, say PFC.

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“It’s not about denying other people their dreams [of a championship], it’s about satisfaction for ourselves,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.

“It’s about respect for the game and the league. Our players are still footballers and it matters for them to win. It’s about finishing on a high note. Both teams want this game.”

This derby is labelled the Coastal Clash between clubs based on the Pacific to the Atlantic. Kah gave a shout-out to what today’s opponents have accomplished in the pandemic-abbreviated, single-site CPL season being played in Charlottetown, P.E.I., pointing out the Wanderers placed last in the league in 2019.

“HFX has a great coach [former Canada and Trinidad and Tobago national teams boss Stephen Hart] and has come from the bottom of the table last season,” said Kah.

“It’s great for the league.”

PFC also missed the playoffs last season to make the playoff round this year in what have been dubbed the Island Games in Charlottetown.

“It’s a big difference from last year,” said PFC captain Marcel de Jong.

“I am proud of the guys. They all showed character and improvement from last year,” added the former Bundesliga and MLS veteran, who was capped 56 times for Canada.

“They have put Pacific FC on the map and are on the right track. I feel we are on the verge of becoming something special. We are almost there.”

PFC is indeed closing in but something is still missing – that next gear – which teams such as Forge and Cavalry possess. That, however, is an issue for 2021 in hopefully a more normal soccer season. But a result tonight could put other teams on notice that making the playoff round this year was not a quirk for PFC.

The winner of Saturday’s 2020 CPL championship game will 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. The Canadian champion will represent the nation in the 2020-21 CONCACAF Champions tournament against the club champions from the U.S., Mexico, Central America and Caribbean.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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