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PFC draw on the road against Valour FC ahead of facing Whitecaps

Tridents left several starters at home for a rest ahead of Wednesday night’s cup game against the Vancouver Whitecaps
Pacific FC’s Eric Lajeunesse, left, and Pacifique Niyongabire of Valour FC race for the ball in Winnipeg on Saturday. TRISHA LEES, PFC

If there was a poster boy for the Canadian Premier League, the national league established in 2019 as a pre-condition to co-hosting the 2026 World Cup and to give young Canadian players a start in pro soccer, it would be Sean Young.

The homegrown midfielder, who has sprouted into an impact player, captained Pacific FC and scored the goal for the visitors in the 1-1 CPL draw Saturday against Valour FC at IG Field in Winnipeg.

“Being captain was really special. Even more so being from Victoria and representing PFC and the Island,” said the Belmont Secondary, Highlanders and Island Wave product, who won the VISL Jackson Cup in 2019 with Westcastle United.

Young’s progress has been on an acute trajectory since he signed with the Tridents as a 19-year-old project in 2020.

“Sean is playing with confidence now and adding detail to his game,” said Pacific FC head coach James Merriman.

“That he wore the captain’s armband shows the respect the team has for him at 22.”

The Tridents left several starters at home — including Manny Aparicio, Josh Heard, Amer Didic and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère — for a rest ahead of Wednesday night’s much-anticipated provincial derby semifinal match at Starlight Stadium against the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS in the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup.

“It’s no secret we have a big game Wednesday. We left our leadership group behind, and felt confident this was the right time for that, and had no hesitation in that decision” said Merriman.

“Without our leadership group, the players we took stepped up. I liked our energy, spirit and character. We [fielded] a young team that didn’t look different from the way we want to play. It speaks to the depth of this team and the confidence we have in rotating the roster.”

Young pounced left-footed to convert an Ayman Sellouf rebound at 49 minutes. Pacifique Niyongabire levelled for Valour FC 20 minutes later.

“We were disappointed to concede when leading, especially since we had a chance to make it 2-0,” said Young.

“We took a point but obviously wish we had taken the three points.”

Niyongabire, who has three caps for the Burundi national team, was just onside in taking a long, direct pass to get behind the PFC defence for the equalizing goal.

“Their direct ball caught us out,” Young said.

The charging Niyongabire, a former A-League pro with Adelaide United and Perth Glory, chipped the ball off the far post and in behind Tridents goalkeeper Kieran Baskett.

“It was a beautiful ball and I ran onto it. That was obviously a goal we really needed for confidence,” said Niyongabire, whose family moved to Australia when he was seven.

“We were getting hammered [by injuries]. The goal was a boost-up for the team. We fought for each other. It was only a point but is huge for us. We had injuries but stayed focused. We are still learning to play with each other. In a few more games we will be unstoppable.”

The Burundi international described the CPL as “very similar to the A-League, physical and aggressive.”

Pacific FC is 3-1-2 in wins-losses-draws in league play for a second-place 11 points and 2-0 in the Canadian Championship.

Valour FC has a win, loss and four draws in league for seven 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 much success against Valour FC over the years and leads the all-time series 11-2-3.

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