After a thrilling come-from-behind win against LAFC at BC Place on Saturday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will now shift their focus towards their first match of this year’s Canadian Championship against British Columbia rival Pacific FC.
Caio Alexandre - left foot injury
Lucas Cavallini - left PCL sprain
Erik Godoy - left calf strain
Cristian Gutierrez - left quad strain
KNOW THY ENEMY
In this edition of ‘Know thy enemy’, we break down all you need to know about the ‘Caps newest local foe.
Long-time ‘Caps fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces on Pacific FC’s roster once the two teams take to the field Thursday night.
A total of 12 players and three members of the coaching staff on Pacific FC have previously spent time with the ‘Caps organization.
In terms of players, most have come through the ‘Caps youth academy system and played regular minutes for the Blue and White’s former USL team Whitecaps FC 2.
Matthew Baldisimo, Marco Bustos, Terran Campbell, Kadin Chung, Jordan Haynes, Alessandro Hojabrpour, Christopher Lee and Matteo Polisi all spent time in their youth careers with the ‘Caps. Goalkeepers Callum Irving and Nolan Wirth also came through the ‘Caps youth system, with Irving being the oldest youth academy product at 28.
Spanish winger Victor Blasco is another player with connections to the ‘Caps, having made 24 appearances and scoring four goals for WFC2 across two seasons.
Finally, midfielder Joshua Heard is a former ‘Caps draft pick who was selected 71st overall in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
Moving on to the coaching staff, plenty of ‘Caps fans will be familiar with Pacific FC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.
The former ‘Caps centre-back made 30 appearances for the club across the 2015-16 seasons. Among his more memorable moments was a stunning brace in a 3-0 away win against Seattle Sounders FC back on August 1, 2015.
After his playing days with the ‘Caps, Kah coached in the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System and with WFC2 as an assistant coach, while also spending time working with the first team.
In addition, Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman spent five years coaching in the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System, while goalkeeper coach Mark Village spent time with the ‘Caps playing for WFC2 from 2015-17 and later as an academy coach.
Pacific FC have had an impressive start to their Canadian Premier League season, sitting first in the table with a 7W-3L-4D record.
Leading the way has been ‘Caps academy product Marco Bustos, who leads the league in assists with four and sits tied for first in the league in goals with five.
The Winnipeg, Manitoba native has been drifting between the lines to find pockets of space to set up his teammates in the final third or create space for himself to have a go at goal.
Joining Bustos on the attack is former Club America youth product and later first team striker Alejandro Diaz, as well as former ‘Caps academy striker Terran Campbell.
The pair of strikers sit tied for third in the league in scoring, each finding the back of the net four times this season.
At the back, captain Lukas MacNaughton, fullback Kadin Chung and goalkeeper Callum Irving have been a big part of Pacific’s defensive success, helping keep a league-leading seven clean sheets.
Not only has MacNaughton been a big part of Pacific’s defensive record, but he’s also played a big role in moving the ball up the field, leading the league in passes with 997.
Meanwhile, Chung has showed his ability to get forward from fullback as well as his defensive prowess with his league-leading 24 successful tackles.
It’s also important to mention Pacific have a league-leading 22 goals so far this season, with eight different players finding the back of the net, so the ‘Caps will need to be warry if they’re to progress to the next round of the Canadian Championship.
ATTACKING THE CPL
As mentioned, Pacific have been lethal on the offensive so far in their CPL campaign.
They have been able to hurt their opposition in more ways than one.
Whether it be breaking teams down with flowing possession, whipping crosses into the middle, counter attacking or having a go from distance, Pacific have shown their versatility in league play.
The side currently sits second in the league in expected goals (xG) with 1.28 and have the most average goals at home with 2.13 per match.
As they’ve done in recent weeks against their MLS foes, the ‘Caps will need to continue staying defensively sound to prevent the likes of Bustos, Campbell and Diaz from influencing the game.
It’s sure to be an exciting match-up this Thursday, August 26 at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT. You can catch the match live on OneSoccer (Online) and AM730 (Radio), with the radio pre-game show starting at 6 p.m PT.