Kah on 2021 Roster: ‘You Need Continuity’
When head coach Pa-Modou Kah arrived to Pacific FC, the west coast side had finished fourth place in the inaugural fall season (albeit just three points from the bottom) with the ownership group sending a clear message that they were looking for improvements both in terms of results and character.
With his first year as club gaffer now concluded, it’s clear that Kah brought both in spades: the charismatic head coach reinvigorated a young side and helped deliver its first-ever postseason run, ultimately becoming the first team to bow out of the group stage during Pa’s inaugural year as a head coach.
Kah’s tenure has seen impressive arrivals like Alejandro Diaz, Marco Bustos, Jamar Dixon, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere and more, with the west coast side deploying a dangerous attack that transitions quickly. Marco Bustos particularly impressed, putting in an MVP-calibre performance throughout the campaign that has Kah firmly believing he can make an impact at the MLS level.
This week the club announced the first of its 2021 roster moves, revealing five returning players and one outbound roster change. The young league already saw two significant roster rebuilds last year with the Halifax Wanderers and Valour FC, while this year it appears that York9 FC and FC Edmonton could be in for big restructurings of their own. When asked if he could reveal the scope of Pacific FC’s own roster changes, Kah suggested that the bulk of the players will be returning, stating that continuity was important to the roster.
We are building a football club, and often people think that you just have to throw everything away and just get new players, but you need to continuity. Continuity is very important to the club. We are not just looking to shift a lot of pieces, but also we want to add quality pieces to what we already have, so that that level will be higher. That’s it, because when you have quality players you must add more quality players for the competition and for the ambition that we have as a club. We have to keep building.Pa-Modou Kah
The 40-year-old suggested that some of the new pieces may be focused on goalscorers and chance creators, which could lend credence to the recent rumours linking fiery midfielder Manny Aparicio to the west coast club. Whatever changes are inbound, Pacific FC states that the next few weeks will reveal more returning faces and a few new ones, too.
While the side’s offensive performances wowed over in Charlottetown, the biggest blip on the club’s journey was its propensity to concede penalties: the Tridents gave away six penalties across ten matches, ultimately bowing out of the competition as this season’s most penalized side. Addressing this problem is something that Kah and the squad have unsurprisingly invested time in, stating that the club will continue to address the issue going into next year, too:
It’s four penalties too much, to give away six penalties in a tournament like this, it’s going to cost you. It’s also going to affect you as players. It’s a learning curve, that’s what I say, the way we want to play and stuff that we want to do, it’s a learning curve and I’m happy because it’s better that you experience now and the players know it.Pa-Modou Kah
The club was quick to announce the re-signing of veteran left-back Marcel de Jong, with Kah stating his return was vital given his leadership qualities both on the pitch and off. He also offered his belief that de Jong still has a multiple years left in him to compete at the CPL level, suggesting that the former Whitecaps man has plenty of minutes left to earn.
Beyond Marcel de Jong and Josh Heard, Kah didn’t confirm any other returning defenders. Still, one can assume that Kadin Chung will be high on the club’s priority list: Kah doubled down on his belief that the 22-year-old deserves a chance to play on the national team, describing him as the best right back from The Island Games. Since the November camp was recently called off, however, any opportunities for Chung at the national level will need to wait until 2021.
The West Coast club saw goalkeepers Nolan Wirth and Callum Irving split duties between the sticks at The Island Games, with the duo collecting four and six appearances respectively. Kah stated that he’d love to see both of them back next year, noting that the starting position – regardless of who is competing – isn’t a lock for either of them.
From us, it’s always based upon preseason. It’s never based upon who your name is. It’s based on what you’re giving us at the moment, and at the moment it felt like Nolan was the best option given the way he trained and came in. Callum had a little injury spell, but he came back strong.Pa-Modou Kah
The club gaffer also touched on 22-year-old outbound midfielder Zach Verhoven, who surprised Pacific FC fans last week after he requested an opportunity to pursue a playing opportunity elsewhere. When asked if his departure came down to a competitive offer from another CPL side or Pacific FC itself moving on, Kah stated that it wasn’t about financials: it was about playing time and buying in to the philosophy of the club:
Sometimes, a player can feel like an environment, the way the direction is going, might not be for them. That’s not a problem. For us, we know the direction we want to be is to become a champion and for that you need players to be a hundred percent bought in to what you are doing. If it’s not that way, then you also have to allow players to seek other solutions for themselves, and that is exactly what it was. It was nothing about us not wanting to keep him.Pa-Modou Kah
A similar situation arose eastwards with York9 FC, where Joseph Di Chiara is expected to make an intra-league roster move this week after requesting that the Nine Stripes release him following an individually successful Island Games campaign. Chances are, these two won’t be the only intra-league moves following solid performances in Charlottetown.
Kah believes that Bustos will be back barring an opportunity to play at a higher level, stating that he’s not worried another CPL side can tempt the creative attacker away from the west coast. Bustos may have shined brightest at the Island Games, but that’s not to say other attackers didn’t impress: former Liga MX striker Alejandro Diaz looked dangerous all competition, finishing with three goals and two assists across ten games.
You look at his pedigree, he’s somebody who has played Club America. Having Rob Friend as an owner who was a striker, we looked at him and he saw some quality in him. So did James Merriman and myself. That one was a no-brainer, to be honest. The quality he has provided has been fantastic. He is a very humble guy who is always training hard, and is always one of the best technical players in the CPL. He loves the game, and he wants to be here. We are truly happy to have someone like him in the culture that we want to create. He is a young player and he still has it in him to make another step.Pa-Modou Kah
Perhaps one of the biggest overachievers at The Island Games was 19-year-old local youngster Sean Young, the first Victoria-born player to suit up for the club. Few would have suspected he’d rack up many minutes with the side, but the midfielder appeared in all but one of Pacific FC’s matches in his rookie season, quickly earning a new contract for the upcoming year.
He does have potential, because he’s a guy that never had coaching before. He’s never had any professional coaching. To see how he developed and played well at The Island Games, to see his potential, he’s a modern day box-to-box player. We see him as a modern day box-to-box player. He’s got the length, he’s got the size, so now for him nothing is expected in the rookie season, now can you keep going into your second season? This is normally the most difficult season for a professional, because now there is more expectation and demands. So then, how is your preparation in the training environment that will lead up to the games?Pa-Modou Kah
The second season sentiment is one that Terran Campbell now knows all too well, having followed up his blistering 2019 campaign (11 goals in 28 league games) with an Island Games dry spell that saw his only goal come in the final match of the season.
In terms of off-season loan moves, clubs shouldn’t expect to see Pacific FC announce any temporary departures as part of the January window: Kah says COVID-19 has stifled the club’s offseason loan moves for the time being. For this year, that means that teenage goalkeeper Emil Gazdov is the only PFC athlete out on loan, with Kah revealing that the two year loan stint to FC Nurnburg includes an option to buy.
With the Pacific FC squad remaining at home, the club has been able to get some training in at a point where some other CPL sides have had their rosters split apart as players leave their club’s training grounds to head home for the offseason. As a result, the west coast side has recently held a few trials, featuring youngsters like Anthony Aromatario and Felix N’sa (who has a last name quite familiar to Wanderers fans). To that end, Kah had no news: he simply said they were just training while the club had a look at them.
With Pacific FC having been one of the Canadian Premier League’s better sides at The Island Games, Pa-Modou Kah has impressed that continuity will be crucial moving into the next season. With the west coast club due to confirm more returning players (and new faces) over the next few weeks, it’ll be interesting to see what Kah and the ownership group have planned for the club to improve upon a solid overall season.
Header Image Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography