It’s back to regular programming today at Starlight Stadium.
But the reverberations from Pacific FC’s 4-3 upset Thursday of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League soccer are still being felt, and not only among the Island soccer community.
In the eyes of many, the Canadian Premier League will be standing taller when PFC meets Valour FC of Winnipeg at 3:30 p.m. at Starlight.
National soccer commentator Kristian Jack labelled the PFC-Whitecaps Canadian Championship result “a monumental night for the CPL and the sport in this country” and noted it alongside the women’s national team Olympic gold medal in Tokyo and the high hopes for Canada in the upcoming final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.
It was like the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL beating the Vancouver Canucks in a hockey game that mattered. What could never occur in hockey is a time-honoured tradition in soccer — national championship or cup competitions that are open to all pro clubs regardless of level or league.
“Been saying this: CPL soccer is good. Pacific FC are very good,” tweeted national broadcaster Brendan Dunlop. He will get few arguments now.
Consider that the Whitecaps are 0-2 against CPL teams.
“It’s frustrating to go out like that. It was a game we wanted to win to go far in the Cup,” said recently signed Whitecaps striker Ryan Gauld, whom the British media once compared with an emerging Lionel Messi.
It’s now back to league play today, against Real Salt Lake for former Scottish Under-19 and Under-21 international Gauld at B.C. Place and against Valour in Langford for PFC.
The CPLers can perhaps do so with an elevated sense of status, thanks to PFC’s vanquishing of the Whitecaps.
“That was a great statement for the CPL,” said Pacific head coach Pa-Modou Kah. “The players in the league understand they can play at this level and can have a new sense of what they can achieve. I hope young lads were watching that game and thinking: ‘That’s a league I want to get into.’ Those are the kinds of games that spur development and desire. Instead of them saying: ‘I’m Canadian and I want to get to Europe,’ we’ve shown we can give them chances here.”
Now comes the task of coming down from Thursday’s high.
“Last game was last game and we need to be razor sharp and ready to go [today],” said Kah.
PFC is at the head of the CPL table at 7-3-4 with Valour three points back at 7-6-1, so a victory today for either team would result in a dramatic swing.
PFC will again likely be without team sparkplug Marco Bustos, who was noticeably and gingerly stepping lightly on one of his legs as he went onto the pitch Thursday to congratulate his teammates during the celebrations following the win over the Whitecaps. The six-time Canada-capped midfielder has missed the past two games.
“Marco’s mentality is first class and he is leading by example,” said Kah. “He will drive the team [from the sidelines] with his leadership and passion. Losing our best player shows the capacity of this group to respond.”