"BC is purple right now": Pacific eager to keep Ferryside Derby crown ahead of long-awaited rematch with Whitecaps
As he left the press conference room on August 26th, 2021, the then-Pacific FC head coach, Pa Modou Kah, had a message for those listening.
“BC is purple!” the always energetic Kah said cheekily with a half smile.
And purple it was. Minutes removed from the first-ever Ferryside Derby (as coined by Kah after), his Pacific FC side was relishing in the fact that they’d beaten the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3 in a thrilling preliminary round Canadian Championship tie.
After last night, B.C. is purple, so it’s only fair that the purple boss gets naming rights on the B.C. Derby…— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) August 27, 2021
And according to Pa Modou Kah, that’s the FERRYSIDE DERBY
The gaffer has spoken😤
🔱💜 #ForTheIsle #VWFC pic.twitter.com/CxvReilpMt
The first-ever meeting between the two sides, they’d just combined for one of the best games in the competition’s history, one that saw Pacific pick up the upset in front of a sold-out crowd at Starlight Stadium.
A charged matchup, both due to the proximity of both teams, the battle of a young CPL side to get one up on their more established MLS counterparts, and the hefty presence of former Whitecaps players on Pacific (among other storylines), the game was emotionally charged in a way that not many in Canadian soccer have been able to replicate since.
Armed with a giant chip on their shoulders, it motivated Pacific to come out with a performance for the ages, one that seemed to really kickstart their campaign. From that point on, they had wings, as they ended up winning their first-ever North Star Shield (remaining the only team not named Forge to do so) while making a strong run to the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship, where they narrowly fell to Toronto FC 2-1.
As for the Whitecaps, the fallout was immediate. It took barely less than 24 hours before head coach Marc Dos Santos was sent packing, while the club suffered with the banter as they’d become not just the first MLS team to lose to a CPL outfit, but the first to do so twice.
To be fair, it also did serve as a catalyst for the rest of their season, as they then made an unlikely run to the playoffs by losing just two of their next 14 MLS games, allowing them to clinch a first postseason berth since 2021. Plus, since then, they’ve now won four straight Canadian Championship ties against CPL teams by a combined score of 9-3 (they won three of those games outright - a fourth on penalties), seemingly eager to not repeat that feat ever again.
Yet, despite that, there’s this lingering feeling of disappointment whenever Pacific FC or the Ferryside Derby are mentioned at the club, as they think back to the match that started it all.
The biggest team in BC for so long, that loss to Pacific showed the pendulum had shifted, undermining that sentiment.
Especially as Pacific then won silverware, something that Vancouver have struggled to do in most of its MLS era (last year’s Canadian Championship victory was just the Whitecaps' second trophy since 2011), that game almost signalled the beginning of a power shift, in a sense.
Yet, while the first Ferryside Derby was special for so many reasons, it could pale in comparison to the one that’s going to be played in a few weeks.
The semi-finals of the Canadian Championship, Pacific will host the Whitecaps in a rematch at Starlight Stadium on May 24th, where a spot in the finals is on the line.
There, it’s argued that even more is at stake than the first matchup. The first game was a preliminary round tie, one where Pacific wasn’t really given a chance to win.
Now, thanks to the outcome of that game, the feeling is that this is anyone’s match to win, which when you couple that with the stakes of it being a semi-final, changes things completely.
And Pacific welcomes that, as they noted after defeating the TSS Rovers in the quarter-finals this week to set up this match-up, stating one clear message for the Whitecaps - bring it on.
“The next match, it's on Whitecaps to come at us,” head coach James Merriman said this week. “We know this is a difficult place to come to, we've had a result here before, and we have players in our locker room that were in that match. We’ll build and we'll prepare for that, we have a match against York to switch our focus to (for this weekend), but we'll absolutely be prepared for the game against Whitecaps when it comes.”
At the same time, while this might feel like anyone’s game based on the first matchup, make no mistake - the Whitecaps are the heavy favourites here. The team in the more established league, with a budget that dwarfs that of Pacific’s, anything but a win will be disappointing for the defending Voyageurs Cup champions.
Therefore, that’s given unique fuel to Pacific, who can head into that matchup knowing that they can win it, but without the pressure of being the favourites.
“I kind of like being the underdog, I like that,” Pacific’s captain, Josh Heard added. “Either way, it doesn't matter if we're playing here, it's good football, there's not a better setting for it than Starlight Stadium, so it doesn't matter to me.”
Plus, Pacific has picked up a knack for this kind of thing, too.
The team might be different from the one that beat the Whitecaps in 2021, as just five players remain, while Merriman was on the coaching staff as an assistant, but they’ve since taken Kah’s comments to heart - they want to keep BC purple.
That’s been clear so far this year.
First, they showed it in the first-ever all-BC CPL derby, as they welcomed the newest CPL team (and their new neighbours) Vancouver FC to Starlight Stadium for the opening game of the 2023 season. There, they picked up a big 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from Manny Aparicio, before he and his teammates celebrated by shushing the 100 or so Vancouver FC supporters who had made the trip over, while making sure to remind those in the press conference after that they’d kept BC purple.
Then, they proved that again this week, as they dispatched the Rovers 2-0 in the Canadian Championship, keeping their perfect record against BC teams in competitive games intact.
Now, they’ll look to use that fuel for this game. Even beyond what’s at stake in the game itself, there’s an innate desire to keep BC purple, especially given what this Ferryside Derby represents.
Therefore, don’t keep your eyes off that one when it comes around. If it’s anything like the last one, it promises to be special, adding another chapter to the burgeoning rivalries that are emerging in the southwest of British Columbia.
Derbies are often forged in the fire of competition, and that fire certainly burns brightly when it comes to these two clubs.
“It's purple right now, yes, and we need to keep it that way,” Merriman said proudly. “And we hope to sell this place out and make sure that it's a full house, because we know that in the match where we played the Whitecaps here, this place was full, and we got a lot of energy from our fans.”
“And we need that for that game, that is important for us and for the community, and we need to fill this place.”
GOAL 🔱🔱🔱🔱— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) August 27, 2021
The makings of an INSTANT CLASSIC as @Pacificfccpl get a FOURTH against @WhitecapsFC in their first-ever meeting!
It's 4-2 with 15 minutes to go!#CanChamp | #CanPL | #VWFC | 🔴 https://t.co/hishXepRT3 pic.twitter.com/ytr8pAINMN