Lost On The Isle: TSS Rovers CanChamp Journey Ends at Starlight
A valiant effort by the reigning League1 BC champions was not enough to put them through to the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship as the TSS Rovers fell 2-0 to Pacific FC.
The Burnaby-based side entered the match with high hopes. A history-making win over CanPL opponents Valour FC brought the team into the second round.
And to both the hosts Pacific and the visiting TSS Rovers, this match was more than just a cup game: it was a celebration of soccer in Canada, both more specifically soccer in British Columbia. This included a profit-sharing scheme between Pacific and not only the Rovers, but also the local L1BC clubs Harbourside FC and the Victoria Highlanders. $5 from every ticket sold went to support the operations of these semi-pro sides.
But while the cooperation off the field was laudable and demonstrated the best the Canadian soccer community has to offer, there was very little good blood between the two squads on the pitch.
Both Pacific’s James Merriman and TSS’ Will Cromack made few changes to their previous starting elevens, demonstrating their faiths in their respective cores -and it seems that these cores were quite evenly matched.
The Pirates entered the matched with a balance playing style; not too offensive, not too defensive, while their counterparts played it safe.
it was almost too safe, as the Rovers attacking line were able to break through the Pacific defense on multiple occasions. This included one scary moment where Matteo Polisi tapped it behind PFC keeper Kieran Baskett only for it to have been ruled that the ball left the pitch just beforehand.
Saying that this game brought out the blood, sweat, and tears from both clubs would sound cheesy on its face, but by half-time two of those things had come to fruition. An aerial duel between Conor MacMillan and Amer Didic left both needing medical attention.
They would both return to the pitch in due time after applying gauze head wraps to stop the bleeding.
Going into the second half, both teams understood that a change in tactics was needed. The Rovers did not let their semi-pro status define their style of play, though several times their limited experience (against pro sides that is) shone through and Pacific took advantage of that, namely in the possession game as short and quick passes defined the Tridents’ play and gave them the ball 63% of the time.
Ultimately it was the home captain who would play hero as a foul in the penalty area by Gabriel Escobar sent Josh Heard to the spot, where he would subsequently bury it behind keeper Justyn Sandhu.
This call will go down in the books as a controversial one as on the replay, there does seem to be a level of embellishment by Heard.
No matter its validity, Pacific’s goal left the Rovers only 24 minutes to get back into the match and send it to a penalty shootout.
This was not meant to be as twenty minutes later a cross in by substitute David Brazao lined up perfectly for a volley by Adonijah Reid. Sandhu stood no chance of stopping this one, and Pacific were now up by two.
Even with the four minutes of added time, the Rovers were unable to manage to put even one behind Baskett and now must bow out of the championship, sending their Langford foes to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in two weeks time.
Saying after the match, Rovers Head Coach Will Cromack said that, due to the limited chances against and the way they handled the adversity, he was ‘extremely proud of the guys and what our club accomplished in the stands and in this competition’.
“It comes down to the tiny moments,” he added, saying that this will serve a learning experience for the club in preparation for their next challenge.
He stressed in the post-match press conference how important tournaments like the Canadian Championship are in developing community-oriented clubs like his own, and how these competitions allow for players, fans, club, and staff alike to unite and be brought closer together.
For now, the eliminated TSS Rovers return to their Swangard Stadium where they resume their League1 BC campaign this Saturday against Nanaimo’s Harbourside FC. The club will need to take the lessons they learned against Pacific and carry those to their league play should they wish to compete in the Championship again next season, as the Rovers currently sit in last place in L1BC.
As for Pacific, they await Sunday where they resume their CPL season against York United at home. Second in the standings, Pacific are currently 2W-1D-1L this season and are going up against a 1W-0D-3L York side.
The club from the Isle now also patiently wait for their date with the Whitecaps to be announced by Canada Soccer in a rematch of their first-round meeting with VWFC from 2021 that saw Pacific become the second-ever CanPL team to beat MLS competition. That year they would ultimately bow-out against TFC in the semi-finals, though they would get the last laugh, beating Forge FC in Hamilton for the North Star Shield and the 2021 CPL title.
Header Image Photo Credit: Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC