Consider it the first marquee match-up of the 2021 Canadian Premier League season. Valour FC of Winnipeg is atop the table at 6-3 with second-place Pacific FC one point behind at 5-2-2.
The clubs meet this evening at 6:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium in Langford with first-place on the line.
“Valour did well in the Winnipeg bubble [the eight games each team played to start the season] by keeping solid defensive shape,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.
But that shape, backed by goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois’ league-leading six clean sheets, has eroded a bit with consecutive Valour losses — 3-1 to host FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium and 1-0 to the HFX Wanderers of Halifax in the final bubble game.
Tonight is the middle of an opening three-game home stand for PFC, concluding with a Saturday matinee against FC Edmonon, in which the Island club is counting on to pile up points in the standings.
“We’re at home. We have to take care of business,” said Kah.
“We want to carry over the momentum from our first home game [2-0 victory over Cavalry FC on Friday].”
Many in the purple-clad opening home crowd of 2,700 sported PFC team jerseys and caps.
“We know this club is a part of our supporters’ DNA. It was fantastic and is the kind of support we need,” said Kah.
Three PFC players made the CPL team of the week — goalkeeper Callum Irving for his league second-leading fifth clean sheet of the season, Marco Bustos for his league co-leading fourth goal and NCAA Big Ten University of Michigan Wolverines-graduate Abdou Samake for his steller defending.
But the talk of the opening home game was the powerfully-taken insurance goal provided by late-game sub and Dutch-import Gianni dos Santos, followed by a celebratory combination front-flip and back-flip, which would have done Olympic gymnasts proud. Dos Santos has been little-discussed otherwise. It was an indication of how deep Kah can go into his bench.
“Depth was something we wanted to address during the off-season,” said Kah.
“Now, we believe we have great depth. That means there will be some sad faces when the starting 11 is posted but everyone knows their role and responsibilities. I always say: Be the star of your role. When you understand your role on a team, it can be a beautiful thing.”