Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah believes his team gained a few new fans with a massive 4-3 upset of the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canadian Championship action on Thursday.
“B.C. is purple,” he told reporters on a video call after the game, referring to his club’s signature colour.
The victory means Pacific, the top team in the Canadian Premier League standings, will advance to the tournament’s quarter-finals to face fellow CPL side Cavalry FC next month.
The Whitecaps came into Thursday’s match in Langford, B.C., heavily favoured and undefeated in their last eight outings in Major League Soccer.
But Pacific struck first, converting an early penalty kick, and refused to give the visitors any space to claw their way back into the game. The home side outshot the ‘Caps 12-9 across the match, including 8-6 in shots on goal, with ‘keeper Callum Irving making three stops. Maxime Crepeau had four saves for Vancouver.
Vancouver knew what to expect heading into the inaugural B.C. derby, but couldn’t find its rhythm early and struggled defensively throughout, said head coach Marc Dos Santos.
“It was just a game that nothing, nothing went the way we wanted it to go. And it’s hard,” he said.
“We knew that it would be this type of game. We knew it would be a scrappy game where first, second ball battles... And (Pacific) did a very good job at that.”
It’s the second time in a row the Whitecaps have crashed out of the Canadian Championship with a loss to a CPL team. Vancouver lost a two-game series to Calvary in 2019, the last time they played in the tournament.
An abbreviated version of the Canadian Championship was held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thursday’s match got off to an eventful start, with two goals and three yellow cards in the first 15 minutes alone.
Manuel Aparicio created the first chance of the night, charging toward the Whitecaps goal and blasting a shot on net. Vancouver ‘keeper Maxime Crepeau made an excellent diving save, but the ensuing rebound caused trouble.
Vancouver defender Jake Nerwinski took Pacific’s Terran Campbell out from behind in front of the far post. The play saw the home side get a chance from the penalty spot and Nerwinski shown a yellow card.
Campbell’s stepped up for the penalty kick and rolled a low ball into the corner of the net as Crepeau dove in the opposite direction. The goal put Pacific up 1-0 in the eighth minute.
Just six minutes later, Whitecaps forward Brian White wrestled the ball away from Irving at the top of the box. Vancouver’s Ryan Gauld picked up the lose ball and chipped it into the back of the net to knot the score at 1-1.
Kah loudly voiced his displeasure with the play from the sidelines, letting the officials know he believed a foul should have been called. Both Kah and Aparicio were given yellow cards for their protests.
A defensive breakdown led to the third goal of the night.
Aparicio waltzed past Vancouver’s Patrick Metcalfe at the top of the box and proved relentless as he made his way to the net and sailed a shot past Crepeau from high inside the penalty area.
Defensive lapses became a trend for the ‘Caps throughout Thursday’s match.
“Overall, I would say you cannot win a game where you concede four goals. And it was a lot,” Dos Santos said. “Defensively we struggled a lot today.”
Pacific took a 2-1 lead into the half, but the break in play didn’t damper the game’s dramatics.
Pacific forward Josh Heard bulldozed his way down the sidelines, muscled his way into the box and sent a low shot past Crepeau to give his side a two-goal cushion in the 63rd minute.
“I just had the moment to shoot and I just pulled the trigger. It all happened pretty quickly. And I’m glad I did because it ended up going in,” Heard said, noting that teammate Gianni dos Santos told him he would have been mad if Heard hadn’t scored, since dos Santos was wide open in front of the net.
“But I owe G one, then. Next time, G.”
Gauld answered for Vancouver in the 66th minute, heading in a cross from Cristian Dajome to cut the deficit to 3-2.
It was the Scottish attacking midfielder’s second goal of the game, coming in his first start for the ‘Caps. He now has three goals and an assist in five appearances for the club he signed with at the end of July.
Despite his personal success, Gauld was upset with Thursday’s result.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Obviously it’s a game we were really wanting to win. We really wanted to go far in the cup. So it’s frustrating to go out like that.”
A Pacific free kick landed in heavy traffic in the 76th minute. Alejandro Diaz found the ball and used a right-footed swing to send it past Crepeau, who had been knocked down in the net.
Diaz came on for dos Santos in the 65th minute.
Some late dramatics saw Gauld taken out by Victor Blasco in the penalty area in injury time. Blasco was given a yellow card and Vancouver was awarded a penalty kick.
Dajome stepped up to the spot, blasting a low shot that Iriving dove to stop. The Pacific ‘keeper couldn’t control the rebound, though, and Dajome popped it into the back of the net, sealing the score at 4-3.
Earning a big victory in front of a crowd of 4,997 fans was particularly poignant for Heard, who grew up in nearby Victoria.
“It’s quite a special moment for me to be able to come here and play against the Whitecaps in front of a packed crowd, in front of friends and family,” he said. “It’s a special moment not everybody gets and I’m very grateful for it. It helps when we get the result like that as well.”