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York United spoils party in Pacific FC's final home game of regular season

Pacific FC is still atop the table despite the loss, but by the barest of margins
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Pacific FC's Josh Heard flies past York United FC's Matteo Campagna. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

PACIFIC FC 1 - YORK UNITED 2

There was plenty to lament for Pacific FC, which squandered a grand opportunity to enhance its Canadian Premier League playoff situation Saturday.

The 2-1 loss to York United at Starlight Stadium kept PFC atop the table, but by the barest of margins and only thanks to another upset, Valour FC’s 4-2 victory over Cavalry FC in Calgary.

“We had a chance [to enhance] being in the top two and host a playoff game and let it slip out of our hands and that is very painful,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.

PFC has one regular-season game remaining, on Nov. 7 in Calgary, but Cavalry has two games left.

Two-time defending champion Forge FC of Hamilton is also one point behind PFC but with four games remaining and now looks to be the odds-on favourite to finish first and claim home advantage throughout the playoffs at Tim Hortons Field.

“Our fans have been fantastic all season and this is why this stinks a little more,” said Kah.

“We were hoping for a better send-off in our last regular-season home game. We were not nearly good enough. We let ourselves down.

“We had momentum following Tuesday [5-1 victory over FC Edmonton] and just threw it away. Why? I don’t know.”

But there were uncanny echoes of a previous PFC loss, to Cavalry FC, that was followed by the famous victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer the following game in the opening round of the Canadian Championship. PFC is hoping history repeats itself as it prepares to meet Toronto FC of MLS in the Canadian Championship semifinals Wednesday at BMO Field.

Asked if his charges were maybe looking past York United to Toronto FC, Kah said: “Mentality. What was important for us was York. We didn’t do our job. The first thing you need to know as a pro is to do your job.”

PFC gave regular goalkeeper Callum Irving a rest and Isaac Boehmer his first start.

The 19-year-old from Kelowna is on loan to PFC from the Whitecaps. The 6-foot-2 goalkeeper was signed to a first-team MLS contract by the Whitecaps in August 2020 after coming through the club’s youth system.

“[Boehmer] shows up every day to work,” said Kah.

“This was the perfect opportunity for him. It’s a shame we didn’t do him justice.”

In what appeared a curious decision, PFC selected a defender, Lukas MacNaughton, to take a penalty kick at 35 minutes after former Whitecaps draft pick Josh Heard was brought down in the box. The penalty kick was stopped by York United goalkeeper Nathan Ingham.

“We have three designated penalty takers,” said Kah.

PFC still managed to take the lead at 49 minutes when Terran Campbell scored on a header for his 10th goal, converting a pass from CPL player-of-the-week Marco Bustos.

But York United leveled at 56 minutes on a strange goal scored almost from the baseline by 22-year-old German import Julian Ulbricht out of the Hamburger SV system.

Then Lowell Wright swiveled on the ball at the top of the box and found the top corner at 81 minutes for the winning goal to stun PFC as it looks ahead to what Kah described as the “biggest game in club history” Wednesday against Toronto FC.

The result lifted York United, from the Greater Toronto Area, into the fourth and final CPL playoff position, two points ahead of Valour FC of Winnipeg and HFX Wanderers of Halifax with a game in hand.

“We know now it’s do or die and we put that in our heads. It was a big game,” said Wright.

“It was vital that we get the win today,” said York United head coach Jimmy Brennan.

“These were three points we needed. Pacific is a good side. We had to be disciplined against Pacific in its own back yard and we stuck to our game plan.

“The playoff race is great for spectators and pundits but it gives coaches even more grey hairs.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com