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Pacific FC strikes early, fends off Atletico Ottawa

Pacific FC records fifth straight Canadian Premier League victory
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Pacific FC’s Josh Heard, right, gets ahead of Atletico Ottawa’s Nina MacDonald to score the only goal of their CPL game at Starlight Stadium on Saturday. PFC has notched up five straight league victories. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

PACIFIC FC 1 - ATLETICO OTTAWA 0

No Alejandro Diaz, no problem for Pacific FC.

Minus the Canadian Premier League’s leading goal scorer, who was purchased this week by Norwegian second tier club Sogndal, Pacifc FC turned to fellow striker Josh Heard to step up and the veteran had no problem doing that.

Heard ran on to the end of a long through ball from defender Nathan Mavilla just eight minutes in and calmly fired a shot into the far low corner to give the Tridents the only goal they would need in a key 1-0 victory over Atletico Ottawa in front of 3,244 fans at Starlight Stadium on Saturday.

The victory moves Pacific FC (10-4-5 in wins-losses-draws) into a share of top spot in the CPL with Forge FC, although the Hamilton squad has a game in hand. Atletico Ottawa remains in fourth spot in the table at (9-5-5), with Cavalry FC holding down third place at 10-6-4.

“This was a very important game for us and obviously a great result,” Pacific FC head coach James Merriman told reporters after the game. “That early goal by Josh allowed us to change things up a little and gave us some early confidence.”

It was Heard’s fifth goal of the season, which now leads the team.

“Josh was excellent all game, threatening with runs wide and in behind their defence so we were very happy with the way he played,” said Merriman.

“With Josh, you can move him around because he’s dangerous out wide or in the middle so we have no problem with him as our No. 1 or 2 striker.”

Pacific FC held Atletico Ottawa in check for almost the entire game as the defending CPL champs rolled to their fifth straight league victory. PFC goalkeeper Callum Irving needed to make just three saves to preserve his sixth clean sheet of the season, just one back of Ottawa keeper Nathan Ingham’s league-leading seven shutouts.

Pacific FC now switches its attention to CONCACAF League play as they get set to host Costa Rican side CS Herediano in the first leg of their Round of 16 set on Tuesday night at Starlight Stadium. The second leg is on Aug. 23 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

bdrewry@timescolonist.com