MATCH PREVIEW: 3 things to watch in Pacific FC vs. Forge FC (April 10, 2022, 7PM ET)
Watch Pacific FC vs. Forge FC on OneSoccer, beginning with our pre-game show at 6PM ET / 3PM PT.
A key rematch is on the cards in Langford this weekend.
Just over four months after Pacific FC defeated Forge FC in the 2021 Canadian Premier League Final – granting the Vancouver Islanders a chance to lift their first-ever North Star Shield as CPL champions – these two teams are getting set to meet again this Sunday in BC to kick off each of their respective 2022 campaigns.
Here's what you need to know about this heavyweight clash:
1. Familiar faces mark return to old stomping grounds
As they both have done the last three seasons, Alessandro Hojabrpour and Terran Campbell will start this season on the pitch with Pacific FC on Sunday.
This time around, however, things will be slightly different for the pair, as they’ll do so in Forge FC orange instead of Pacific FC purple, having transferred to the Hammers this offseason after each spent three years on the island.
Because of that mutiny, it’ll be very intriguing to see the reception they get when visiting their old stomping grounds, especially this early in the campaign.
The two were key pillars of Pacific FC, with both sitting as the top two appearance leaders for the club (all competitions), and Campbell, still Pacific’s all-time top scorer.
As such, it’s expected that they get welcomed back warmly, and rightfully so ... but that's not guaranteed.
As soon as the whistle blows and the game kicks off, expect any warm fuzzies to go out the window for the rest of the game, as they look to stick it to their former side. Meanwhile, Pacific will look to remind them of what they’re missing out on, as Merriman promised this week.
“Yeah, our players will be (up for this), for sure,” Merriman said. “They (Campbell and Hojabrpour) were big parts of our team, and now they’re going to be on the other side, so our players will be up for that, and I’m sure some of our fans will be, as well.”
2. Pacific aims to keep home field a fortress
A huge part of Pacific’s run to the final last year? Their ability to pick up points at home.
The Tridents finished the season with a record of 6-2-2 (W-D-L) at Starlight Stadium, where they picked up a very solid 20 out of a possible 30 points after starting the year in the ‘CPL Kickoff’ bubble tournament in Winnipeg.
So, seeing that they’re now opening this season at home right from the beginning, they’ll want to continue that rich vein of form, especially given that they will be able to play 14 games at Starlight thanks to the return to a more normal schedule.
They'll especially want to keep their home strong against this Forge team, who haven't been at these grounds since a pair of appearances in 2019 (Forge won one and drew the other).
Pacific will be eager to show that coming to the Island is a lot different task now than it was three years ago.
3. Forge's 'double-preseason' a marked advantage?
While it might be Pacific’s first competitive game since the final, the same can’t be said for Forge, who actually played a pair of games back in February in the Concacaf Champions League, where they had to take on Mexican giants Cruz Azul in a two-legged series.
They did pretty well for themselves, too, despite eventually losing 4-1 to the tournament's favourite to win.
But for Forge, it was quite the challenge to prepare for those games, given that the CPL season wasn’t set to start for another two months.
Because of that, Forge have had to run through two preseasons; one for the Champions League, and, now, one for the CPL campaign.
As such, flexibility has been a must for Bobby Smyrniotis' side, as they had to be prepared for the possibility that they qualified for the next round of the Champions League.
“The great thing about the last couple of years is that it’s taught us coaches to stay on our toes, we haven’t had the most conventional seasons,” Smyrniotis noted. “But I’ll take different any day of the week when it means you’re playing continental football.”