Pacific FC head coach Pa-Modou Kah will not be on the bench for tonight’s Canadian Premier League game against Atlético Ottawa after drawing a one-game suspension for being assessed two yellow cards in the previous 2-1 loss to Forge FC on Saturday in the Winnipeg bubble. The Island club will be guided by assistant coach James Merriman.
“We spoke a lot about resiliency [after the loss to Forge],” said Merriman.
“Losses hurt. If anything, that just motivates us more.”
Merrriman will have to navigate PFC’s injury situation. Defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and midfielder Manny Aparicio, key pieces for Pacific FC, have spent most of the Winnipeg bubble portion of the CPL season on the sidelines due to injury. It’s one thing to be in a bubble when you have games to break the monotony, quite another when you don’t. Neither player is expected back tonight when PFC (3-2-2) closes out its eight-game bubble campaign at IG Stadium against Atlético Ottawa (2-4-1) at 7 p.m. PT.
“They have been excellent in recovery and are very close, but we do not want to risk anything,” said Merriman.
Meilleur-Giguère was expected to anchor the backline for Canada U-23 at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in March at Guadalajara, Mexico, for the Tokyo Olympic Games before going down with an ACL injury in the final training session before the qualifier. He recovered from that and began the season with PFC but went out after three games and 205 minutes played.
The mercurial Aparicio, the former MLS Toronto FC prospect who made 39 appearances for Canada from U-18 to U-23, was PFC’s prize off-season free-agent signing but he too went out after only two games and 147 minutes played for PFC. Marco Bustos and Josh Heard, tied for second in the league with three goals each, have picked up the offensive pace for PFC in Aparicio’s absence.
Atletico Ottawa has also been without a key player recently with Ryan Telfer away with the Trinidad and Tobago national team this month for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Ottawa team is owned by big-time La Liga Spanish club Atlético Madrid and coached by Mista, a former La Liga veteran player with Valencia, who was twice capped for Spain. The Ottawa side will get a boost tonight with Spanish midfielder Alberto Soto, the 20-year-old Atlético Madrid prospect, cleared to play after several delays.
PFC won the first meeting this season between the clubs 1-0 on July 7 on a goal by Heard that was craftily assisted by Bustos between the wickets of an Ottawa defender.
Merriman said the team will be happy to finally get on a plane Thursday and depart the Winnipeg bubble.
“It’s been a long run stuck in a hotel,” he said.
The regular portion of the CPL season begins July 30 when PFC takes on Cavalry FC of Calgary at Starlight Stadium.
CORNER KICKS: Merriman coached for seven years in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ MLS academy and residency programs, out of which have come several of the PFC players. “There are so many ties between the two teams,” he said of the announcement this week that PFC has been drawn against the Whitecaps in the first round of the Canadian Championship tournament Aug. 26 at Starlight Stadium. “Our guys are excited about the match-up and many of them feel they have something to prove.”