Whitecaps Wave Goodbye To Pacific, Book Spot In Cup Final
A quick first-half double salvo from the Whitecaps largely secured revenge against Pacific, though a horrific-looking injury to Ali Ahmed put a damper on what would otherwise be a celebration of BC-based football.
The last time the Ferryside Derby went down, British Columbia was purple after a seven-goal thriller.
Both teams walked onto the pitch tonight in different eras: The hosts, now led by James Merriman, are proving potent as ever in league play despite a much-transformed roster, while the visitors find themselves in a much more competitive place under head coach Vanni Sartini – and with a stronger track record against CPL sides, too.
A record crowd of 5,221 watched the teams knowing both were 90 minutes away from booking a ticket to the final against CF Montreal, with the hosts featuring a side heavily rotated from the starting eleven that drew Valour over the weekend.
Merriman’s team came out fearless in the opening minutes, pestering through both flank and middle, but it was the visitors who ought to have gone ahead early: Raposo floated a tantalizing ball into the box that found its way to Brian White, who’s effort struck the crossbar in the sixth minute.
Pacific played without fear and put bodies forward in attack, but were ultimately punished on the night for doing so.
The first goal came not long after that following 90 seconds of chaos: right after Sellouf forced Takaoka into a big stop from close range, the visitors took off on a three-on-two counter and fed the ball to Julian Gressel, who found just enough space to launch the ball beyond the outstretched arms of 19-year-old goalkeeper Emil Gazdov.
After fourteen minutes, the ‘Caps had an early lead in Trident Territory.
The Whitecaps would suck the air out of Starlight Stadium just three minutes later when Ali Ahmed put the visitors up two-nil following a soft clearance from the Tridents that allowed Ahmed to blast a one-time right-footed volley into the opposite corner.
Just one minute later the match took an immediate pause after Ahmed went down hard under a tackle from Cediric Toussaint, losing consciousness after a hard and awkward impact on the turf pitch.
Paramedics quickly took to the scene to care for the young left-back, but the crowd – and players – could do nothing but watch with concern as he was attended to and taken off for further medical aid over the course of twenty minutes.
When play resumed, the ensuing corner kick saw Brian White beat Gazdov to the ball, but it deflected to Javain Brown – who had just come on for Ahmed – with the defender striking the post.
Pacific’s were left to rue missed chances after their Dutch duo of Ayman Sellouf and Djenairo Daniels saw two big chances apiece pass them by as the first half came to its end: both quickly carved out chances on counters shortly after play resumed, and as seventeen minutes of added time ticked on, a lofted header from Daniels would strike the crossbar, while Sellouf would come close on a freekick shortly after.
Despite the momentum shift, the first half would finish with Pacific two-nil down against Vancouver Whitecaps, with a medical update for Ahmed coming during half-time.
The second half opened with a less fervent nature, though Pacific still made the ‘Caps sweat through chances from Aparicio and Mukumbilwa, while former Whitecap Kekuta Manneh came off the bench hungry against his former side.
It took a heroic stop from Takaoka in the 67th minute to stop an absolute thunderbolt from Manny Aparicio, who had scored a belter against the side back in 2021.
The Whitecaps would bag a third goal in the 76th after a turnover from Pacific saw a quick transition catch the hosts out, with Simon Becher – who has a knack for it – finding himself in the right place to scoop a third beyond Gazdov.
While Gazdov has looked shaky on a few occasions both in tonight’s match and in moments preceding it, the 19-year-old did well to make himself big and stop Deiber Caicedo from adding a fourth five minutes from time.
Despite a fearless approach to the match, however, the second-ever Ferryside Derby would end with British Columbia turning blue-and-white after they ‘Caps put forth a much more clinical performance than their Isle-based neighbours.
The final whistle signaled the Vancouver Whitecaps securing passage into its second-straight Canadian Championship Final (and tenth overall), with CF Montreal now the final road block for the defending cup champions who are now set to host the occasion.
That match will kick off at BC Place on Wednesday, June 7 at 7:00PM EST.
We wish Ali Ahmed all the best in his recovery following his horrific injury in the first half.
Header Image Photo Credit: Sheldon Mack / Pacific FC