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Plenty of home cooking early on for Pacific FC

PFC to start season with three home games
Kunie Dada-Luke and Pacific FC open the season April 14. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST)

In a league that spans from Greater Victoria to Halifax, travel and recovery is always going to be a major factor and storyline in any Canadian Premier League season. So Pacific FC will be looking to pile up the points at the beginning of the 2023 CPL campaign with three home games to start and four of its first five fixtures and nine of its first 13 scheduled for Starlight Stadium. That includes a league co-leading span of four consecutive home dates from June 18 to July 8.

“Travel is the challenge of this league. That is the advantage of home games in a wide-spread national league, and makes it even more important for us to start the season well in those early home games,” said Pacific FC head coach James Merriman.

“It’s exciting for our fans and our team. We know what we can do at home and how we like to play here. This is a big opportunity and we need to be ready for it, because we know the travel is coming later. And early home games are also very important to build a relationship and connection to our fans, especially for the new players.”

PFC will be out of the gate April 14 at Starlight Stadium in a previously-announced CPL opening game that simply had to be against cross-strait expansion rival Vancouver FC.

“It will be the first game of what we hope is a long and great derby,” said Merriman.

In other previously-announced CPL openers, 2022 league-finalist Atletico Ottawa hosts the HFX Wanderers of Halifax at TD Place Stadium, and defending-champion Forge FC of Hamilton hosts Cavalry FC at Tim Hortons Field, both on April 15. Valour FC of Winnipeg visits the Greater Toronto Area to play York United on April 16 to conclude the opening weekend.

The remainder of the CPL schedule was released Monday. PFC will bookend its league opener against VFC with the CPL’s season-concluding fixture Oct. 7 in Calgary against Cavalry FC.

PFC will follow the opener against VFC with home dates April 23 against Cavalry FC and April 30 versus Forge FC. The first PFC away game is May 6 in the nation’s capital against Atletico Ottawa. The first-ever visit to the new Langley Events Centre stadium to play VFC comes June 2.

Each of the eight teams will play 28 regular-season games, 14 at home and 14 away, for 112 in total. The 400th regular-season game in the five years of CPL history will take place June 4 at IG Field in Winnipeg between host Valour FC and visiting York United. Over the first four seasons, the CPL produced two alumni, Joel Waterman and James Pantemis, on the final Canadian World Cup roster for Qatar 2022 and former PFC defender Lukas MacNaughton was in the final pre-World Cup training camp.

A yet-to-be named trophy is to be inaugurated and awarded to the CPL regular-season champion. The top four teams in the season standings will make the playoffs culminating with the awarding of the 2023 North Star Shield in the fall.

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