Pacific FC, Cavalry FC square off for berth in Canadian Championship semis

Pacific FC and Cavalry FC will have something in common tonight when they meet in Calgary at 7 p.m. PT in the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship. Both Canadian Premier League clubs have beaten the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer in the competition for the Voyageurs Cup. Island-based PFC did it last month in the first-ever B.C. derby and Cavalry FC in 2019.

But that’s what Cup play, littered over the years across the world with vanquished Goliaths and heroic little Davids, is all about.

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“These are two CPL teams that have knocked the Whitecaps out of the competition the last two times. It shows how our league is growing and results like that will drive the league,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.

The PFC-Cavalry FC winner will advance to the semifinals of the Canadian Championship to meet the winner of tonight’s quarter-final between seven-time champion Toronto FC of MLS and York United of the CPL.

On the other side of the draw, Forge FC of Hamilton defeated Valour FC of Winnipeg 2-1 in an all-CPL quarter-final duel and awaits the winner of tonight’s game in Halifax between HFX Wanderers of the CPL and CF Montreal of MLs.

The sometimes-stark money discrepancies between teams show why fans around the world view Cup games, called Cup ties in planetary soccer parlance, with such fascination and intrigue. Toronto FC’s team player payroll this MLS season is $17 million US, which is ­second behind Inter-Miami’s $17.8 million. CF Montreal’s is an MLS 11th-ranked $12.3-million US and the Whitecaps’ an MLS 27th and last-ranked $8.7-million US. By comparison, CPL teams have a season player payroll cap of between $650,000 and $850,000 Cdn.

At stake is a place in the ­CONCACAF Champions League for the Voyageurs Cup winner.

Cup games around the world have a feel all their own. PFC is trying to avoid that ­emotional roller coaster, despite that the match-up between the ­CPL-leading Tridents (10-3-6) and second-place Cavalry (9-4-5), looks to be a cracker.

“Some teams play to the ­occasion but we don’t,” said Kah.

“We are going to treat it as a normal game.”

That said, PFC rested many of its usual starters Sunday in the 1-1 CPL draw Sunday at Starlight Stadium against cellar-dwelling Atletico Ottawa.

Cavalry, which defeated FC Edmonton of the CPL 2-0 in the opening round, got the quarter-final home date against PFC by coin flip. The Tridents, who upset the Whitecaps 4-3 in the first round before a raucous capacity crowd of 5,000 at ­Starlight Stadium, would have loved to have again had the backing of their home crowd but aren’t concerned about Cavalry’s home advantage on ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows.

“It’s a Cup game and we’ll play it home or away. The game is the game,” said Kah.

It is the latest installment of what has become one the CPL’s best match-ups.

“We know Cavalry has Al Classico [the name given to its games against Alberta-rival FC Edmonton], but PFC-Cavalry is a brewing rivalry and all the games between us are exciting and entertaining,” said Kah.

He said he expects no ­different tonight.

PFC leads the season series 2-1-1 but Cavalry FC leads the all-time series 6-3-2.

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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