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Pacific FC look to ride home-field advantage in second leg of CONCACAF League set against Waterhouse

Pacific FC wants to make it Fort Starlight tonight for the second and its home leg of their two-legged 2022 CONCACAF League tournament opening-round set against Waterhouse FC of Jamaica tonight at Starlight ­Stadium in Langford.
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Kam Habibullah and Pacific FC welcome Waterhouse FC of Jamaica to Starlight Stadium on Tuesday night. PACIFIC FC

Pacific FC wants to make it Fort Starlight tonight for the second and its home leg of their two-legged 2022 CONCACAF League tournament opening-round set against Waterhouse FC of Jamaica tonight at Starlight ­Stadium in Langford.

The first game in Kingston, Jamaica, ended in a scoreless draw last weekend.

“We want to keep this a ­fortress for us, as it has been all season,” said Pacific FC captain Jamar Dixon.

“Our fans are our 12th Man and we want to use them as motivation and hype and to deliver for them.”

PFC head coach James ­Merriman said his charges need to enjoy the moment but not be overwhelmed by it.

“We need to embrace the energy of the crowd and keep our focus and concentrate on ourselves and our play,” he said.

UEFA has done away with it in its Champions League and Europa Cup rules, but away goals still carry more weight in CONCACAF League and CONCACAF Champions League play. CONCACAF rules state: “If the aggregate goals between the two teams are equal at the end of regulation time of the second leg match, the tie-breaker criteria will be determined as follows — the greater number of away goals scored in regulation time in the two matches. If still tied, then kicks from the penalty spot will take place.”

That means any draw, except a scoreless draw, will go in Waterhouse’s favour tonight and they win. A scoreless draw will go to penalty kicks. PFC needs an outright victory in regulation time to advance or a shootout win following a scoreless draw.

“We are aware of that, but that doesn’t change how we play or approach the game,” said ­Merriman.

The Canada-capped PFC captain Dixon was blunt and to the point: “We have to keep the ball out of our net and score on them. It’s as simple as that.”

The Island-based PFC qualified for play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF League this year by winning the Canadian Premier League championship last year.

PFC will be facing a Waterhouse team itching to make right after winning the Red Stripe Jamaican National Premier League regular-season title only to underperform recently in the playoffs. Waterhouse FC finished first in the regular season at 15-3-4 in wins-losses-draws and received a quarter-final bye before being upset by sixth-seed and eventual upstart-champion Harbour View 2-1 on aggregate in a two-legged playoff semifinal series. Waterhouse then lost 4-1 to regular-season fifth-seed Cavalier in the playoff bronze-medal game.

The current Waterhouse roster boasts a combined 48 caps for the Reggae Boyz, as the Jamaican national team is known. Former English League 1 Preston North End midfielder Keammar Daley has 27 caps and two goals for the Boyz, forward Tremaine Stewart 11 caps and two goals, defender Ricardo Thomas five caps, goalkeeper Akeem Chambers and midfielder and former Whitecaps Residency prospect Keithy Simpson two caps each and forward Colorado Murray made his Reggae Boyz debut in 2020 against Bermuda.

Pacific FC, meanwhile, is 9-4-5 in the CPL and comes into Starlight tonight on a run of four consecutive league wins and the opening-leg CONCACAF League draw against Waterhouse.

The PFC-Waterhouse winner will advance to the CONCACAF Roundof 16 Aug. 16-18 for the first legs and Aug. 23-25 for the second legs. The quarter-finals are Sept. 6-8 for the first legs and Sept. 13-15 for the second legs. The semifinals are Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13. The finals are Oct. 25-27 and Nov. 1-3.

Six teams — the semifinalists and top-two quarter-finalists — will advance to the 22-team 2023 CONCACAF Champions League featuring the big-league clubs of the region.

The format, however, will change after that with three regional tournaments qualifying clubs for a confederation-wide expanded 27-club CONCACAF Champions League beginning in 2024 that will crown the region’s best club team.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com