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Weekend results guarantee Pacific FC playoff berth

The table is set for the Canadian Premier League post-season.
Kunle Dada-Luke and Pacific FC have clinched a playoff spot. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

The table is set for the Canadian Premier League post-season. Defending-champion Pacific FC clinched one of the four spots Sunday through host Cavalry FC’s 2-1 victory in Calgary over Valour FC that eliminated the visiting fifth-place club from Winnipeg.

Kicking off in the playoffs will be the holders from the Island, two-time champion Forge FC of Hamilton, Ont., annual contender Cavalry FC and post-season debutant Atletico Ottawa.

It is an intriguing foursome with the match-ups to be decided over the remaining regular-season games this week. PFC closes out Wednesday night at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton against Forge FC and Saturday in Calgary against Cavalry FC with both of those games possible semifinal previews.

The fourth-place Tridents trail both Forge and Cavalry by a point with a game in hand on the latter club. Leading Atletico Ottawa, owned by La Liga giant Atletico Madrid, is four points clear of Forge and Cavalry and five points up on PFC with a game remaining. It is mathematically possible for PFC to capture the regular-season championship, but the ­Tridents need to win out, and have Atletico Ottawa lose its final game against York United.

“We have the chance to push for the regular-season title,” said PFC head coach James Merriman.

Meanwhile, the two-legged playoff semifinals, matching the first versus fourth seeds and second versus third seeds, will be held Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 with a game guaranteed at Starlight Stadium. The CPL championship game will be played Oct. 29 at the home of the higher seed.

“We set out our goals at the start of the season — we had to get back into the playoffs,” Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said in a statement, following Sunday’s playoff-berth clinching win over Valour FC.

“No matter how you start the race, it’s how you finish it that counts. We’ve topped the table [in previous seasons] and not picked up any silverware. A playoff championship is a lot, we just had to finish above the line.”

Above the line is where PFC, Cavalry Forge and Ottawa have landed in a CPL regular-season campaign that began in April. Each has a compelling storyline. PFC will be looking to keep their grasp on the North Star Shield. The 2019 and 2020 champion Forge FC will be looking to win back what it believes is its birthright in the four-year-old CPL. Cavalry FC will be wanting to finally beat down the door after knocking on it for so long. Atletico Ottawa is the gate-crasher that has come from missing the playoffs the last two years since entering the league to now possibly a championship season.

Below the line will finish regular-season also-rans Valour FC, HFX Wanderers of Halifax, FC Edmonton and Marty Nash’s York United of the Greater Toronto Area.

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