Pacific Powers Way To 2021 CPL Final
For the first time in club history, Pacific FC has procured itself a spot in the CPL Final.
Extra time was needed to decide a winner after a tale of two halves saw Pacific take a first half lead through Terran Campbell, with the second half seeing Cavalry storm back to equalize through Karifa Yao.
The go-ahead came in controversial fashion, with Kunle Dada-Luke firing in a near-ninety-degree goal after narrowly keeping the ball in play, though it’s up for debate whether the ball had actually gone out first.
That’s not the first time such a debate has burnt Cavalry FC in a postseason match, either.
How They Got Here: Pacific Procures Back-To-Back Playoff Positions
The danger signs from Pacific’s Terran Campbell were put on display just fifty seconds into the match, when a trademark PFC counter-attack saw the forward crack a shot off the far post, with a clever ball from him just five minutes later seeing the ball fly dangerously in front of the net.
Host side Cavalry had entered as favourites on paper, but found themselves missing the likes of Nik Ledgerwood or Elliot Simmons in midfield. The side did enjoy some momentum on the right flank through Mohamed Farsi, though it was the visitors who found themselves on the front foot in the first half.
The chances kept building for the Tridents, who nearly tasted glory through a curved effort from Chung, a toe poke from Diaz, and a trademark rocket from Aparicio that found the back of the net just after play had been stopped for a handball call.
Cavalry’s best chance of the first half came after David Norman sent Ben Fisk in on the left flank, though goalkeeper Callum Irving was able to keep the scores level. Farsi would have a go himself moments later, but his shot couldn’t cleave a way through the wave of purple defenders in front of him.
It was the league’s most potent poacher who gave the visitors a well-deserved lead in the 33rd minute, with five-foot-six Manny Aparicio beating six-foot-two Daan Klomp to a header, redirecting the ball across the box for Campbell to shoot home:
The second half would see Tommy Wheeldon Jr. bring on Joseph Di Chiara in the hopes to inspire change, though he wouldn’t have to wait long to see it: a corner kick just two minutes into the second half would see CF Montreal loanee Karifa Yao equalize for the home side, nodding home a well-placed header for his first professional goal:
The reaction from Pacific both during and after the ensuing celebration made it event that tempers were rising, and that came to a head just a few minutes later when Josh Heard slammed into Jose Escalante. Both sides cleared the benches in the altercation that followed, with Terry Dunfield surmising that the foul was retaliation for something.
Heard walked away with the first yellow of the match.
Cavalry nearly took the lead ten minutes later, with Di Chiara sending in a close range cross that nearly took a deflection into the net before going out. A set piece moments later saw Klomp head the ball just wide of Irving, with Cavalry now clearly on the front foot.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side grew increasingly dominant as the second half progressed, often finding itself the first on the ball as Pacific FC held on tight. Kah would opt to bring on Kunle Dada-Luke for Josh Heard, with the youngster having impressed throughout his first full CPL season.
Mason ought to have wrapped things up fifteen minutes from time, with Farsi delivering a pinpoint cross on a platter that found its way beyond Samake, thought it caught Mason off-guard. The play would trigger an unfortunate end to Samake’s night, with an apparent hamstring injury ending his night early.
With neither side able to come out ahead in regular time, referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere signaled for the first-ever instance of extra time in the CPL postseason.
Both sides would get chances in the final thirty minutes, with Championship veteran Joe Mason firing an edge-of-the-box ball just inches wide of the post, with Farsi coming close not long after.
In the final minute of extra time’s first half, controversy would reign as Kunle Dada-Luke kept the ball just barely in play (which is in itself still a subject for great debate) to fire home a historic matchwinner from a near-ninety-degree angle:
The final minutes of extra time would see Cavalry feel burnt again after a penalty shout was waved away, with referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere ending Cavalry’s season not long after that: the final score ended 1-2 in the visitor’s favour.
Having entered the match without key players Lukas MacNaughton and Marco Bustos, Pacific FC have done well to surpass expectations and reach its first-ever CPL Final.
Pa-Modou Kah now finds himself just ninety minutes away from a North Star Shield, having already done well to lead his side to back-to-back playoffs while also reaching the Canadian Championship semi-final stage this year.
See Also: ‘Everything Is A Stepping Stone’ For Kah
Cavalry FC were the first side to qualify for playoffs, finishing second overall in the regular season. The club has qualified for the postseason in all three of its Canadian Premier League seasons, but have once again fallen just short of glory on the precipice of a North Star Shield.
The Tridents will now await the result of the other Canadian Premier League semi-final, which will see Forge FC host York United tomorrow afternoon. If York provides an upset, Pacific will host the 2021 CPL Final next weekend – but if Forge wins, the final will take place on Sunday, December 5 instead.