2022 Concacaf League Preliminary Round (Leg 1) Pacific FC vs. CS Herediano August 16, 2022 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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After passing their first test with flying colours in the Concacaf League, Pacific FC will need to level up in a big way for the next round. On Tuesday, they meet Costa Rican giants CS Herediano at Starlight Stadium for the first leg of the competition's round of 16. In just their second ever Concacaf home match, Pacific will meet a team with a storied history both in this competition and beyond. The Concacaf League has been mostly dominated by Costa Rican sides -- in the competition's five-year history, three winners and five finalists have come out of the Costa Rican Primera División. Herediano themselves won the Concacaf League in 2018, the first Costa Rican side to do so. That was their first continental title, but Herediano has a long and storied history of winning since being founded in June of 1921. In the following century, they have picked up 29 Costa Rican league championships and have appeared fairly regularly in both the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and the current-day Concacaf Champions League. Herediano look like they are well on their way to picking up more silverware this year, as they have five wins and a draw through six matches this year in the Primera División Apertura. They lead the league with 13 goals scored, and have conceded just four. "We know and we respect them and the players are extremely excited to test themselves, and measure themselves, and take on the challenge head-on," said Pacific FC head coach James Merriman. "We're in good form, we're in a good way, there is a good energy within our team. Everyone is excited for the opportunity. We're a team, but also individually for our players to test themselves against quality opposition and obviously some quality players in their squad. Overall, I think there is a real genuine excitement to challenge ourselves." Pacific have actually been in a very similar run of form to Herediano of late. They too have five wins and a draw in their last six league matches and have scored 16 goals in that time. They scored an additional six in a dominant home leg against Waterhouse in the Concacaf League preliminary round. Ten of those aforementioned 22 goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick in Concacaf League, however, came from Alejandro Diaz who has since departed for the Norwegian second flight (where he has already scored). As a result, Pacific will need to find goals from different sources. On the inverse side, however, they have also conceded nine goals during their last six matches. While only one of those has come in their last three, they have averaged roughly 1.3 goals against per match during CPL action this season. Defensively they will have to be at their very best as away goals and home matches are both critical in Concacaf. Just ask Forge, who in last year's Concacaf League competition matched up with Costa Rican side Santos de Guápiles in the quarterfinal. They would lose the away leg 3-1, but would then turn the tie around 3-0 at Tim Hortons Field. "It is extremely important, especially knowing the night before the game you get to sleep in your own bed, you know what kind of food you are going to eat, you know what I mean?" said Pacific FC captain Jamar Dixon of Tuesday's home match. "You know the pitch, and you know you have the fans behind you which is our 12th man. So it is great to have that, it is amazing to play at Starlight Stadium in front of our family and friends and these just amazing fans. Whenever we are here we always feel we have the upper hand". Pacific has lost just once at Starlight Stadium in 10 CPL matches so far this year. This is a trend that extends back to last season, where they picked up a league-high 29 points in 14 home matches. Perhaps no bigger match, and certainly no more historic opponent, has graced the pitch in Langford than Herediano. As such, Starlight Stadium's status as a fortress will be put to the ultimate test, but Pacific will be looking for yet another historic night on the Island.

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3 THINGS TO WATCH

  • Without Diaz, Pacific will need another difference-maker: It wasn't just the goals that left Pacific when they sent Alejandro Diaz to Europe, but the Concacaf experience as well. Diaz has won the Concacaf Champions League twice, including scoring against Herediano in the semi-finals of the 2014-15 tournament. He currently leads the 2022 Concacaf League in scoring after a hat-trick against Waterhouse FC in the preliminary round. But Pacific can't dwell on the departed, they will need to find goals from different places if they are to get past Herediano. The primary candidate to do so appears to be Josh Heard. Heard was also excellent during the home match against Waterhouse, and in Pacific's first match post-Diaz, a 1-0 win over Atlético Ottawa, he led the line and scored the match's only goal. He played alongside Marco Bustos, who will also be critical for Pacific in this match. With Diaz gone, Bustos becomes their most experienced player continentally and having missed most of their championship run through injury last year will be looking to make some history of his own.
  • Pacific have done their homework, but don't intend to change their plans much: By this point in the CPL season, and in the league's history, Pacific FC is generally pretty familiar with each opponent they play on a given matchday. Herediano will be a new challenge -- new players, a new style and certainly a wealth of experience that, on paper, looks to make Pacific the underdogs. For a club that is used to dictating possession and the tempo of matches, that will be much more difficult against the Costa Rican outfit, even at home. But asked if they intend on doing anything differently in this match, Merriman said that the group has no plans to get away from the identity that has made them so successful of late, including a more offensive-minded approach. "We don't want to change the way that we play and the way that we are, but of course we respect the opposition, we respect Herediano, we know their qualities, we know how they play, we know their strengths, we know their individual players," said the Pacific head coach. "So we need to respect that, but we also need to play our way and we need to believe in that."
  • Could another special night at Starlight Stadium await? Pacific 4, Vancouver Whitecaps 3. Pacific 6, Waterhouse FC 0. There have been some incredibly special nights in Starlight Stadium's brief history and Pacific will be hoping for yet another one on Tuesday. The picturesque venue always seems to provide an atmosphere worthy of the big occasions and if Pacific are to go deep in this competition that will need to be the case again on Tuesday. There will certainly be some other advantages to playing at the stadium as well, including the lack of travel, and the group's knowledge of the sometimes tricky turf surface. "We have great support here at our stadium, so we look forward to that," said Merriman. "In terms of matches at this stadium, the Vancouver Whitecaps match last year was a special night, the Waterhouse match and now this will arguably be our biggest match that we have ever had at home."

ALL-TIME SERIES


First meeting between these two sides.

KEY QUOTES

"We hope for a great crowd and a good energy from our supporters. We will run, and we will work and give everything that we can for them." -- Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

"I have talked to the guys and it is a matter of just taking care of what is in front of you. We can't focus on the future. A lot of us have never been to this stage in our footballing career so I think it is important to just stay focused on the game at hand and don't look to far ahead and we also forget we need to enjoy the moment as well." -- Pacific FC midfield captain Jamar Dixon

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