Final Score: Pacific FC 3-2 Valour FC Goalscorers: Aparicio 20', Diaz 33', Heard 56; Dada-Luke (OG) 42', Dyer 90'+3' (penalty) Game of the 2022 season: 8 CPL match: 259​

Match in a Minute or Less:

Pacific FC remain at the top of the table after the second weekend of the season, beating Valour FC 3-2 on Sunday to win their second match in a row to begin the campaign. The first half was an eventful one, with Manny Aparicio and Alejandro Diaz scoring for Pacific on either side of a red card to Tony Mikhael. Mikhael, who had only replaced the injured Diego Gutierrez a few minutes earlier, was sent off after a dangerous high boot caught the face of Pacific left back Nathan Mavila. An own goal from Kunle Dada-Luke, created by William Akio, saw Pacific enter the break up 2-1. Bustos continued his fine form into the second half, setting up Josh Heard for Pacific's third in the 56th minute. Moses Dyer scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, bringing Valour within one again, but the referee blew the final whistle immediately after, and the match ended 3-2.

Three Observations

Marco Bustos runs the show, picks up three assists​

Winnipeg native and former Valour FC attacker Marco Bustos was the best player on the pitch on Sunday, quarterbacking the Pacific attack to another victory. He provided three assists for his teammates, including this perfect ball into the box with the outside of his left foot to set up Pacific's first goal of the match. He combined well again with Kunle Dada-Luke on the right flank, and as always, was calm under pressure -- often dribbling his way out of tight spaces, and cutting across the edge of the crowded penalty area to try and find himself a shot on multiple occasions. Three assists, four shots, and a 90% passing accuracy are just three of the indicators that he was one of the most dominant players on the park on Sunday, and was unlucky not to create a few more goals. His penalty in the first half was saved by Jonathan Sirois, and yet another assist from the ensuing corner was cancelled out after the ball struck Matthew Baldisimo's arm before he thumped it into the back of the net. He has aspirations of winning the Player of the Year, and if he continues to play the way he did on Sunday, he'll be a unanimous pick. In an injury-shortened 2021 season he still managed to finish second in the league with six assists in 17 matches, and through two matches in 2022 he's already up to four. "We all know he has that instinct for an assist or a goal or that last ball," said Aparicio. "We're just happy to have him on our side -- I played against him multiple times and I'm glad he's on my side now, because he's a gamechanger. Now we've just got to get maybe getting those goals for himself a little bit more."

Early injury and red card sink Valour in the opening half​

A difficult five minute stretch for Valour in the first half proved to be one of the differences between the two teams on Sunday. After "feeling a pinch" in the hamstring that was troubling him in preseason, right back Diego Gutierrez was forced out of the match following the first goal, replaced by Tony Mikhael. Mikhael himself left the pitch four minutes later, after a dangerous challenge -- leading with a high boot when trying to clear the ball away, kicking Nathan Mavila in the face. He was shown a straight red card, and Valour were now down a man as well. It forced them to change the way they played for the remaining 65 minutes or so, and invited even more pressure from an attacking Pacific team. "It's hard to have a good grasp, and make a fair judgement of everything, because I feel that when you get a red card like that so early in the game, it conditions a lot of things," said Valour head coach Phillip Dos Santos after the match. "I felt like we started the game well, there were spells where Pacific were on the ball but not really creating, and then came the goal off an action that we spoke a lot about -- that this game would be determined in wide areas, and we knew where the threat was. "Afterwards, when you're trying to weather the storm and make sure you get back into the game, you get a red card, and before that you get Guti having to come out with a knock and injury, and you put in Tony (Mikhael) and it happens that Tony makes the foul that leads to the card. After that it's damage control, you're trying to get something." After Gutierrez and Mikhael were off the pitch, Dos Santos turned to William Akio to fill in at right back. Beginning the match higher up the pitch on the right wing, Akio has never played deeper in that defensive role, but stepped up and looked sharp. Dos Santos acknowledged that a lot of travel to play for the South Sudan might be catching up to Akio a bit, but he was still impressed with his performance on Sunday. "He started higher up and then I moved him as a right back," Dos Santos recalled. "He was steady, but there's expectations, we speak with Willy and we think there's still another level for him. "He's not a right back, has never played as a right back, and today he had to do the job, and I feel that he coped with it well."

Pacific dominate at times, but they want even more​

Pacific, understandably so with an extra player, dominated large parts of Sunday's match, but in their postgame press conferences stressed that there is more to come from their side, and that they aren't happy with the performance. "I think the team did enough, but we wanted more from the position we were in," said Pacific head coach James Merriman. "They went down to ten men and we thought we should control the game more. Overall as a team we want more from a game like this. "Being more dominant, being more controlled -- they're down to ten men and we're winning. I didn't think we did that well enough today, and we know it as a group, and that's something we're going to continue to work on and reflect on." Pacific outshot Valour 20-3, with eight of those ending up on target, and three in the back of the net. Valour managed just two on target, one of which was a penalty, with their other goal coming from an own goal by Kunle Dada-Luke. They also dominated in the expected goals (xG) department, with a rating of 5.04 compared to Valour's 0.89. The expected goals rating for a penalty is 0.76 xG, indicating that Pacific's defence prevented Valour from getting any good chances for the first 92 minutes of the match, and the impact that Bustos' missed penalty can have on such a metric. For the second week, however, Pacific gave up a late goal -- Dyer's penalty -- but they again had the match more or less wrapped up by that point. It hasn't burned them yet, but seeing out the final minutes of the match is something they'll need to prioritize in particular in the coming days and weeks. "You're up 2-0, they get a red card, Andy Baquero out, Gutierrez getting injured... that's when you smell the blood and you've got to go in for the kill," added Manny Aparicio. "You can't let them back in with an easy goal. Same thing, we're up 3-1, 30 seconds left and we can go to the corner and kill the game off. It's ugly football, but it's something you've got to do to win, and then we gave up a cheap penalty. "Honestly, I'm not happy with it. As much as we won, and it was a good game or whatever, for me if we want to be that back-to-back champions, we can't have these results with late goals against and cheap goals against, and not killing teams off when we get the chance." Player of the Match

Marco Bustos, Pacific FC Setting up all three goals, and unlucky not to have another goal and assist, Marco Bustos led a dominant Pacific attack.

What’s next?

Pacific close out a three-game homestand against HFX Wanderers next Saturday, April 23 (4 pm PT/ 8 pm AT). Valour finish a three-game road trip with a visit to the nation's capital to take on high-flying Atlético Ottawa on Sunday, April 24 (3 pm ET/ 2 pm CT).
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