Match Preview: Pacific FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps – the chance for long-awaited revenge
For the first time since that fateful summer’s day in 2021, the Whitecaps have the chance to take on their island neighbours Pacific FC. Once again, the ‘Caps head to Starlight Stadium, as they look to punch their ticket in the Canadian Championship final for the second straight season.
The first match between these two sides was a 4-3 victory for the men in purple, which was the second time in a row that the ‘Caps had failed to beat a CPL side and served as the final match of the short-lived Marc Dos Santos era.
Now, it’s Vanni Sartini at the helm, and the ‘Caps may have shaken their CPL boogeyman by taking down four sides from the league in succession over the past two tournaments. We very nearly saw these two teams face off in last year’s semifinal, but Pacific fell to York on penalties. This year, after the ‘Caps dispatched York and Pacific narrowly ended the fairy tale run of semi-pro side TSS Rovers, it’s game on once again.
So, how will the ‘Caps line up on Wednesday? Now that it’s the semi-finals, and the chance to defend their title at home is nearly within their grasp, you figure the club has to well and truly go all out for it. At the same time, this is their 6th match in 19 days and the fixtures keep on coming – if they make it to the final the ‘Caps will have their stretch from early May to mid-June clock in at 11 matches in 36 days!
The fact that the ‘Caps must start at least three Canadians does make guessing the lineup a little easier. Assuming that Sartini wants to keep Yohei Takaoka in goal, then the logical Canadians to start are Ali Ahmed, Russell Teibert, and Ryan Raposo. Karifa Yao could also slide in at the back especially if Ranko Veselinović is still away from the team, but he’s not looked too convincing in his minutes so far this year.
The wildcard option is Levonte Johnson, who scored against York in the quarter-finals and is signed to another short-term contract for this match. I think it’s much more likely he’s used in the spark plug role off the bench once again, but given the fits the ‘Caps have had at the striker position this season he’s someone to keep an eye on.
Speaking of the strikers, I do feel that this match could be a great opportunity to give Sergio Córdova the start. Brian White is coming off a tiring shift against the Sounders on the weekend, and Córdova is still looking to get his feet under him in Vancouver. Trying to find him some chemistry with the likes of Ahmed, Ryan Gauld, and Julian Gressel is a must if the ‘Caps are to get the most out of their DP forward.
Looking at the hosts, Pacific currently sit 2nd in the CPL standings with a record of 3-1-2. They are 4-1-1 at home in all competitions, including victories in the Canadian Championship over Cavalry FC and TSS Rovers.
Manny Aparicio, who scored one of the four Pacific goals against the ‘Caps in 2021, remains a threat for the islanders. Midfielder Sean Young is having a potential breakout season with two goals and two assists already in 2023, while former ‘Caps trialist Amer Didic patrols the backline and is a threat on set pieces.
After their CONCACAF Champions League campaign fell by the wayside, this competition is the second chance for the Whitecaps to compete for some silverware. If they can follow up their solid road performance in the quarter-finals the ‘Caps will put some demons to bed Wednesday night. If they can’t, well they’ll certainly hear it from the Pacific faithful.
It’s a real kick in the nuts that we have all this fixture congestion but also WHERE the games are. Like if we were going to SJ on Saturday I wouldn’t really care. But St Louis is 3/4 across the continent. I feel like that’s potentially a winnable road game (although STL is rounding back into form) but with this match sandwiched in and travel, we’re liable to get killed on Saturday.
Chips all in on this one boys. Get a W.
Yeah the schedule has been brutal and one of the worst road games to come. Vanni definitely seems to be prioritising the cup, so I think we may see a lot of rotation Saturday for a very tough trip