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York United keeper centre of attention in scoreless draw against PFC

It’s the kind of quirky goalies’ tale — the unexpected emergency call-up out of the blue that pops up in pro soccer and hockey every once in awhile.
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York United goalkeeper Niko Giantsopoulos leaps to snag the ball in traffic during CPL action at Starlight Stadium on Friday night. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

It’s the kind of quirky goalies’ tale — the unexpected emergency call-up out of the blue that pops up in pro soccer and hockey every once in awhile.

Niko Giantsopoulos recorded his third clean sheet of the seaon Friday night at Starlight Stadium for York United in its Canadian Premier League ­scoreless draw against host Pacific FC before 2,660 fans as the Tridents’ five-game home winning streak became a six-game home unbeaten run.

Giantsopoulos will fly out today to Charlotte, North Carolina, to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps in their Major League Soccer game Sunday. He will return late Monday and is expected back in goal for York United on Tuesday night when they meet PFC in a Canadian Championship quarter-final match-up at Starlight Stadium, with the winner advancing to play either the Whitecaps or the CPL’s Cavalry FC in the semifinals next month.

“It’s fun. It’s why I want to play this sport,” said a calm and cool Giantsopoulos.

“I will be running on adrenaline and am not going to feel the tiredness.”

The whirlwind was necessitated by the Whitecaps being without all three of their goalkeepers. Thomas Hasal is out with a dislocated finger while Cody Cropper and former Pacific FC keeper Isaac ­Boehmer were placed in the MLS’ health and safety protocols on Friday.

Meanwhile, the game Friday may have proved costly for PFC as arguably their best player on the season to date, Manny Aparicio, was injured in the first half and had to be wheeled off. Aparicio pulled up his jersey over his face, indicating he knew it wasn’t good.

York United is a big, strong team and pushed the Tridents around in the first half as ­players in purple seemed to litter the pitch prone in the physical affair that saw three PFC players leave with what appeared significant injuries – Aparicio, Jordan Haynes and Sean Young.

“If anything, this got us fired up for Tuesday,” said PFC head coach James Merriman.

The Tridents are 5-1-2 in wins-losses-draws atop the CPL table.

York United is from the Greater Toronto Area and coached by Victoria-raised ­Martin Nash, the 38-time Canada capped former Whitecaps pro. The Nine Stripes, as they are known, are 2-2-3 in league and 3-2-3 overall including Canadian Championship.

“This game was played on the edge,” said Nash.

“Both teams were ­physical and battled. A point each was a fair result. Pacific is ­unbelievable at home and we are pleased with the clean sheet against their talented players.”

CORNER KICKS: League games are important and ­Canadian Championship games even more so. PFC held out three regulars Friday — captain Jamar Dixon, Abdou Samake and Kunle Dada-Luke — in preparation for Tuesday’s Canadian Championship quarter-final against York United. … It’s just happenstance the clubs are meeting twice in a row in the different competitions.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com