Short-manned Pacific FC, down to 10 players, got a goal at 87 minutes from Marco Bustos to climb to the top of the Canadian Premier League standings with a death-defying 2-1 victory over Valour FC of Winnipeg.
PFC played the final 15 minutes Wednesday evening at Starlight Stadium down a man after goalkeeper Callum Irving was shown a red card for touching the ball with his hand outside the box. Not only did PFC hold Valour off down the stretch, it almost scored an insurance goal when Josh Heard just missed in injury time as a crowd of just over 2,000 made the noise of about 20,000.
“We showed our true character, down a man, brilliant,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah, after Terran Campbell found Bustos at the back post for the close-in header to win it.
“This team always plays to win.”
Pacific FC (6-2-2) moved two points ahead of Valour FC (6-4) atop the table as it won three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
“Even 10 men versus 11, we pressured late in the game,” said defender Lukas MacNaughton, who scored PFC’s first goal to tie the game at 66 minutes.
“It shows our fitness and all the hard work we did in the pre-season.”
Valour FC could hardly believe the turn of events.
“We should have seen it out for at least a point,” said Valour coach Rob Gale.
“It was a terrible goal to give away, especially at that stage. It was naivety on our part. We gave the game away.”
The prognosticators had an inkling, with whispers that Pacific FC was perhaps ready to take a run at inheriting the CPL mantle, held since the 2019 inaugural season by Forge F.C. of Hamilton, Ont. But nobody saw Valour FC coming. The Winnipeg club, however, has now lost three consecutive games after starting 6-1.
PFC controlled possession for the first 40 minutes but was unable to dent the best defensive shell in the CPL as Valour FC came into the game allowing only six goals with goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois, on loan from CF Montreal of MLS, sporting a CPL-best six clean sheets.
Valour FC struck against the grain of play with its first attempt on net at 41 minutes as Rocco Romeo got his head to a corner kick. It was the second CPL game for Romeo, on the Canada U-23 provisional roster for Tokyo Olympics qualifying last year before COVID, and who is playing for Valour on loan from Toronto FC of MLS.
Pacific went down to 10 players at 75 minutes when Irving was red carded. Reserve goalkeeper Nolan Wirth went into the net with PFC having to take off a field player.
PFC meets FC Edmonton (3-5-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium before hitting the road for a couple.