Pa-Modou Kah did not grow up steeped in baseball lore in Norway. But the Pacific FC soccer head coach could probably relate to Yogi Berra’s famously redundant quote: “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
For the second consecutive weekend, PFC faces elimination in the pandemic-abbreviated Canadian Premier League season taking place in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The first time, Pacific FC rallied for a 2-1 victory last Sunday against FC Edmonton in the must-win final round-robin game to capture the fourth and last berth into the playoff group stage.
After dropping its playoff opener 3-1 Wednesday against Cavalry FC of Calgary, the Tridents must win or draw today against defending-champion Forge FC of Hamilton (9 a.m. PDT on CBC) to stay alive in the playoff round. A loss will eliminate PFC from championship contention ahead of its final game Tuesday against HFX Wanderers of Halifax.
“Our mentality remains the same,” said Kah, who guides the youngest team in the CPL.
“The players understand what’s at stake and are ambitious. It’s about responding. We were a bit overwhelmed by the Cavalry press but have regrouped and are ready to go [today]. There are no worries about mental state or motivation. These are all pros who work hard.” PFC will have to likely do it again with a compromised back line missing captain and former Bundesliga player Marcel de Jong and Lukas MacNaughton, both to injury.
“Marcel is arguably one of the best players in the CPL and has played for the Canadian national team [56 times] and Lukas is like a rock,” said Kah, of what has been missing without those key defenders the last few games.
“There may be a chance to see them [today]. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Even with de Jong and MacNaughton, PFC was unable to stop MLS veteran and 18-time Canada capped Kyle Bekker from scoring in the 97th minute in Forge FC’s dramatic 3-2 victory over PFC in the round-robin portion.
“Forge plays differently than Cavalry and we’ve got to figure out some ways [to counter the defending CPL champions],” said Kah.
“It’s different going from eight teams in the round-robin to four in the playoff group stage. Everything is more scrutinized.”
The top two of the four teams after the playoff round-robin will advance to the single-game championship final Sept. 19 on CBC.
The CPL champion will move on to meet the top Canadian team from MLS for the Canadian Championship, this nation’s FA Cup-type title. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC are 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 CONCACAF Champions tournament against the club champions from the U.S., Mexico, Central America and Caribbean.