Pacific FC to open against Halifax as pandemic-delayed CPL set to start

Pacific FC will begin the 2020 Canadian Premier League pro soccer season, four months later than planned, when it kicks off against the HFX Wanderers of Halifax on Saturday at noon PDT in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The CPL announced its schedule Monday. All games will be played on the University of Prince Edward Island’s FIFA-standard Alumni Field turf facility sans fans amid the league’s “bubble” after the Charlottetown beat out Langford and Moncton, N.B., to host the season tournament.

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“This nation is huge, man,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah, after his team arrived in Charlottetown on the weekend after a cross-country WestJet charter flight.

The charter left Victoria and stopped in Calgary to pick up the Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton teams.

“Each team was respectful to the others and everybody stuck to their space,” said the capped Norwegian international Kah.

All eight CPL teams quarantined for 14 days before leaving their cities and must quarantine an additional five days in Charlottetown, where each club is occupying a separate floor in the city’s waterfront Delta hotel. Each player was tested for COVID in their home communities and again upon landing in Charlottetown.

“The set-up is very good. The CPL and P.E.I. have done a great job,” said Kah.

“Our boys are happy.”

But this trip is not for sightseeing on the picturesque island.

“Our guys are on a mission here to win games,” said Kah, by phone.

Each of the eight teams will play the other once in the round-robin portion of the made-for-TV tournament. PFC’s other games are against York9 next next Tuesday at 10 a.m., Forge FC of Hamilton on Aug. 22 at 1 p.m., Valour FC of Winnipeg on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., Cavalry FC on Aug. 30 at 9 a.m., Atletico Ottawa on Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. and FC Edmonton on Sept. 6 at noon. All times are PDT.

All games will be broadcast live over the Web on OneSoccer, beginning with the opener Thursday as defending-champion Forge FC meets Cavalry FC in a rematch of the 2019 CPL championship final.

The top-four teams will advance to a playoff-round robin. The top team from that will go directly into the league championship game while the second- and third-place teams will meet in a semifinal with the winner advancing to the championship final.

“Our mindset upon arrival is to get into that top-four,” said Kah.

This is the second year for the long-awaited Canadian domestic pro soccer league, mandated by FIFA, as part of Canada hosting the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico. Nobody could have anticipated the sophomore CPL being played in this abbreviated fashion amid a pandemic.

“The games will come fast and dense,” said Kah.

There is little room to recover from losses. Kah said the teams that “stick together best” amid the whirlwind will do best.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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