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Pacific FC Josh Heard

Kah Hails Cup Upset As ‘Massive Step’ For Domestic Football

By on August 27, 2021 0 1075 Views

A sellout crowd at Starlight Stadium witnessed history last night as Pacific FC came out 4-3 winners against the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canadian Championship play.

The Battle of BC, as it is being called, was the first-ever competitive meeting between the two. While the Whitecaps arrived as firm favourites, Pacific found the back of the net four times to cement an upset as the Tridents found themselves buoyed by a stadium packed with raucous fans and a sharp, cohesive team performance that a strong-looking and much higher salaried Whitecaps lineup couldn’t match.

While VWFC head coach Marc Dos Santos lamented a night where his side clearly struggled defensively, he congratulated Pacific FC for the work rate and intensity it had poured into the seven-goal thriller. For his opposite number, Tridents head coach Pa-Modou Kah, the night was about turning heads towards the comparatively young Canadian Premier League.

I think it’s very important that the people of Canada that love soccer can also open their eyes and see that this league is very important to the growth and the development of the domestic players. If you see the squad we started, we had maybe one foreigner and the rest are just Canadian.

Pa-Modou Kah

Indeed, the starting eleven named by Kah only featured one international in Dutch striker Gianni Dos Santos, with Liga MX veteran Alejandro Diaz eventually come off of the bench. Every other purple-clad player was domestic, and they got the job done even without Pacific FC star midfielder Marco Bustos, who missed the high-profile cup match due to a minor injury.

In league play, Canadian Premier League teams must field a playing eleven that features a Canadian majority. The league allows for a maximum of seven internationals to be rostered, shifting a stronger focus onto domestic player development. Described as a development league, the CPL is hopeful to springboard its players up to the ‘major leagues’, be they MLS or overseas.

That being said, the level of play in the domestic league has been high, and has left players like Samuel Piette impressed.

2021 Canadian Championship Pacific FC Vancouver Whitecaps
Manny Aparicio was signed by Toronto FC, but never got to play for the senior side. (Photo Credit: James MacDonald)

While Vancouver had nearly two-thirds of the possession last night, it was Pacific FC who found itself generating the most dangerous-looking play. In 98 minutes of action, the home side led for 76 minutes of them, with the Whitecaps playing on a level scoreline for just 22.

Goals from Campbell, Aparicio, Heard, and Diaz secured history for Pacific, while an individually bright performance by Whitecaps designated player Ryan Gauld couldn’t undo the damage for the visitors. At the final whistle, Gauld’s brace and a last-gasp penalty from Cristian Dajome were not enough to keep the team’s cup ambitions afloat.

Dos Santos had fielded a near-full-strength side, indicative that he was going all-in on the side’s cup hopes. The Whitecaps are undefeated in their last eight league matches, which makes last night’s cup upset all the more noteworthy.

Today is a testament to why the CPL is important, and why fans and people around Canada should start to look at the CPL, support it, and drive the growth. There is a lot of talent out there, but if we don’t drive it as clubs, as a league, as Canada Soccer as well, then we will not address it the way that we should, because there is growth.

Pa-Modou Kah

Pacific aren’t the first CPL side to defeat MLS opposition, with Cavalry FC earning the honour after a 2-1 aggregate scoreline against the Whitecaps in 2019. That year also saw York9 FC (now York United) come one last-gasp crossbar away from the feat in its first leg against eventual winners CF Montreal.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have now played three Canadian Championship matches against CPL opposition, recording one draw and two losses.

Scoring four against an MLS side is a first for the CPL, though the attacking prowess of the side won’t come as a shock to supporters who regularly watch Pacific FC on OneSoccer or Fox Sports: Kah cemented a sharp counter-attacking mentality throughout his first season with the club in 2020, retaining nearly all of the same players this season and adding sharp additions like Manny Aparicio and Ollie Bassett.

Pacific FC Pa-Modou Kah
Pa-Modou Kah celebrates with his children at Starlight Stadium. (Photo Credit: James MacDonald)

The club currently stands first in Canadian Premier League standings, having scored 22 goals in just 14 games. With tonight’s Canadian Championship victory, the team will now march off to face Cavalry FC in the quarter-finals. Last night, however, Kah simply allowed his team to celebrate: “Vancouver is purple,” he said, “and hopefully with the support of all the people who are here, they can see what we are building on this island.”

With twelve Pacific FC players having been part of the Vancouver Whitecaps system at one point, the victory underlines the fact that there’s a lot of talent that slips through the cracks of Major League Soccer. Kah, who spent two seasons playing for the Whitecaps before transitioning into coaching there, hopes that young domestic athletes take notice.

Dos Santos had been eyeing some Canadian Premier League players in 2019, suggesting that higher-profile clubs also have a vested interest. CF Montreal signed Joel Waterman after the first CPL campaign, which had marked his first season at the professional level.

Everybody that is out there, young players, CPL is the way for you if you want to continue your growth to develop into MLS or Europe. As clubs and federations, we need to start opening our eyes and see that we can push and drive the growth.

Pa-Modou Kah

Kah offered left winger Josh Heard as an example: the Victoria-born forward earned man of the match honours last night, scoring the club’s third goal through a terrific solo effort. He’s been having a quiet breakout season on the left flank, where he’s proven dangerous in league action and contributed three goals in league play this year. Kah describes him an oft-underappreciated athlete.

[He] has been around the world and never had the chance to play at his home country. He had to travel outside to get the opportunity. Him being from the Island, and us being a club on the Island, him wanting to come back and help the growth of the league says a lot.

Pa-Modou Kah

The quarter-final stage of the Canadian Championship will witness two more CPL-vs-MLS clashes, with current Voyageurs Cup holders CF Montreal travelling out east to face the Halifax Wanderers, while Toronto FC will host York United at BMO Field. The belated 2020 Canadian Championship Final is still without a date, but that will see Forge FC host Toronto FC at Tim Horton’s Field.

As for the Whitecaps, Dos Santos admits that the club has some questions to ask of its defense. As he puts it, football can have a team go from heaven to hell in the span of a single match, and he’s simply aiming to bounce back skywards in league play this weekend. With only a few points separating the side from a playoff spot, it can still hope to reach greater heights this season. For Dos Santos’ sake, it’ll have to.

This week, however, the accolades go to Pacific FC: The Canadian Premier League team has provided one of the most exciting Canadian Championship matches to date, and their advancement to the quarter-final ensures that at least two semi-final matches will feature teams from the Canadian Premier League. Perhaps there is more history to be made.

Kah isn’t looking that far ahead right now. “Packed stadium,” he says jovially, “Vancouver is purple.”

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