Pacific FC head coach James Merriman is wary to keep his team tightly focused today at 2 p.m. PT on IG Field in Winnipeg, and Valour FC in the Canadian Premier League, and not look ahead to Wednesday at Starlight Stadium when his club meets the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS in a much-anticipated provincial-derby semifinal match in the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup.
“Everyone knows there’s a big game next week. It’s no secret that the players are looking forward to that match,” said Merriman.
“We know the game is around the corner and it’s a big game for us. The focus is really to take it one match at a time so we are focused on Valour right now.”
Merriman pointed to the core of veterans, who have been through the CPL championship season in 2021 and subsequent CONCACAF League play last year, as being key in that regard.
“They are keeping our locker room very humble and very focused and everyone has their feet on the ground,” said Merriman.
“The mindset has been good and nobody is looking past the [Valour] match.”
Pacific FC is 3-1-1 in league play for a second-place 10 points and 2-0 in the Canadian Championship. Valour FC has a win, loss and three draws in league for six points and third place but has an opening-round Canadian Championship upset loss to the League1 B.C. TSS Rovers of Burnaby to live down.
PFC has had solid success against Valour FC over the years and leads the all-time series 11-2-2.
“Valour is a really aggressive, high energy team,” said Merriman.
“They are quite dynamic and work for each other. We need to recognize their qualities. We respect the energy and work ethic they have.”
The Tridents go into the Manitoba capital having outscored the opposition 10-2 over their last three games, two league and one Canadian Championship.
“We have had a good couple of weeks and it’s important that we maintain it and push it forward,” said Merriman.
“We are playing more freely flowing and with a little bit more trust and it’s only going to grow. We want more, for sure.”
Goalkeeping, however, has been an adventure this season for the Tridents.
“They [Emil Gazdov and Kieran Baskett] are training through the pressure that they are feeling,” said Merriman.
“We still have full confidence in those guys being who we believe they can be for us this season. They are in the right space mentally and are training well.”
CORNER KICKS: Six CPL alumni, including dominating former PFC defender Lukas MacNaughton of Nashville SC in MLS and former Valour FC players Jonathan Sirois and Sean Rea now with CF Montréal in MLS, have been named to the 53-player Canada long list for the CONCACAF Nations League finals this summer. The others are former Cavalry FC star Joel Waterman, now with CF Montréal, former Cavalry player Victor Loturi, with Ross County in Scotland, and Dominick Zator out of Cavalry FC and York United, currently with Korona Kielce in Poland. The roster will be trimmed to 23 for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Panama on June 15. Canada will meet either the U.S. or Mexico in the final or bronze-medal game June 18.