Final Score: Pacific FC 2-0 HFX Wanderers Goalscorers: Marco Bustos (17'), Ollie Bassett (37') Game of the 2021 season: 2 CPL match: 137
Match in a minute or lessDisrupted by a pair of weather delays due to lightning in the area on Saturday, Pacific FC's midfield was the difference in a 2-0 win to open their 2021 season against HFX Wanderers in a battle of east vs west coast sides. Halifax struggled to create goalscoring opportunities, while first half goals from Marco Bustos and Ollie Bassett saw The Tridents pick up a deserved three points, and claim an early lead at the top of the standings, with two matches still to come in this opening weekend of the 2021 CPL season.
Three observations Ollie Bassett stands out in Pacific FC debut Former Northern Ireland youth international Ollie Bassett was impressive in his Canadian Premier League debut. The Pacific FC midfielder saw a lot of the ball, and was spraying passes all over the pitch for his teammates. 61 of his 66 passes connected (92.4%), with a team-leading 38 of them in HFX's half of the pitch, and he was rewarded for his strong performance at the end of the first half, scoring his first CPL goal with a dipping shot from long range that found its way into the bottom right corner of the goal. He linked up well with fellow midfielders Jamar Dixon and Manny Aparicio in a midfield trio that ran the show for large parts of the match. "We're all pretty comfortable on the ball, we can all take the ball under pressure and play in tight areas," Bassett said after the match. "We're just trying to take what we do in training, the little possession games and rondo games, and do put it onto a bigger pitch. "We take a team down one side and then we try to link up and shift it to the other side as quick as possible. Sometimes in the first half we were a little slow doing that today, but overall we were happy with how we moved the ball and moved the opposition." HFX Wanderers struggled to create scoring chances Throughout Saturday's contest, particularly in the first half, HFX failed to really challenge Callum Irving in the Pacific FC goal. 2020 Golden Boot winner Akeem Garcia only touched the ball six times before coming off at halftime, and didn't register a shot or key pass in his 45 minutes of action. After coming on for Garcia at halftime, Joao Morelli provided a spark to the Wanderers' attack -- finishing the match with a team-high two key passes -- but goal scoring chances were still few and far between. Stefan Karajovanovic came closest for the Wanderers in the second half, taking a touch off his back before firing a volley at Irving, forcing a big stop from the goalkeeper. The CPL U Sports draft pick was one of the Wanderers' best players in his CPL debut, and was responsible for two of the club's three shots on target -- the other a long-range effort from Cory Bent that didn't really trouble Irving. Pacific FC a strong group on and off the pitch Pacific appeared to be a team with more cohesion on Saturday night. From Callum Irving in goal to the attackers at the other end of the pitch, they looked comfortable with one another, and like a strong unit, rather than a group of individuals. Statistically, 551 passes and 84.9% pass accuracy show how well they work together, but from watching how they communicated with each other as well, their willingness to work for one another and make each other better was on display for all to see. "This is a tight-knit group," head coach Pa-Modou Kah said after Saturday's match. "Their focus is fantastic and they know what they want to achieve." Not only a strong unit on the pitch, Kah has raved in recent weeks and months about their closeness off the pitch as well. An obvious gesture in this match of that closeness off the pitch came after Marco Bustos scored the opening goal. Paying tribute to teammate Victor Blasco's father, who passed away recently, Bustos held up Blasco's number seven kit -- a touching tribute for the Spaniard and his family. "This is one of the top-five teams that I've been around," said Kah after Saturday's win. "Just the way that they are as human beings -- from my players to my staff to the ownership. This is a family club, we all care about each other. "When we knew that Victor lost his dad, ownership didn't hesitate, they just booked a ticket for him to go home. The players rallied behind him -- for us as a club and as a team, this is what we're about."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchOllie Bassett, Pacific FC The Pacific midfielder had a dream debut in this match -- he scored their second goal and was a commanding figure on both sides of the ball in central midfield.
What’s next?Pacific FC will take on York United at 5 pm ET (4 pm CT) on Thursday, July 1, while HFX Wanderers face Valour FC a day earlier, a match that kicks off at 7 pm ET (6 pm CT) on Wednesday. Watch all games live on OneSoccer.