Emil Gazdav was the hero, saving the fourth Calgary penalty, and Gorges Mukubilwa buried Pacific FC’s fifth penalty to win 5-3 on penalties, setting up a home tie with TSS Rovers in the next round.
On a wet and slippery night at Langford, an early injury to Manny Aparicio caused concern for Pacific, before conceding the first goal on 28 minutes as Myer Bevan continued his impressive early season from for Cavalry. Birthday boy Sean Young whipped in a dangerous free kick 11 minutes later, which Easton Ongaro managed to get his head to, opening his account for is new side – leveling the tie on 39 minutes. Both sides had chances in the second half with Pacific dominating late on but neither could find a breakthrough and the tie was decided from the penalty spot.
Three key observations:
Toussaint provides backbone to the midfield
With two established sides going into battle, the importance of a player to compete and dominate in the middle of the pitch can be vital.
While Sean Young was named Player of the Match, Cedric Toussaint must have been an incredibly close second. His energy in the midfield was galvanising for the crowd and his team around him. Losing Manny Aparicio early meant someone needed to step up and take control of the midfield. Toussaint was everywhere in this match. Defensively, he gave his opposing midfielders little time on the ball and used his bulky frame and competitive edge to consistently win the ball back and get Pacific back in possession. On the ball, Toussaint isn’t limited to just a quick pass and stay where you are. Toussaint continued to surge forward when the opportunity arose. Carrying the ball as well as showing good passing awareness and movement.
With Pacific pushing for a winning goal in the second half, Toussaint didn’t slow down and this high press, the possession dominant side have a midfielder who combines so well with his teammates. Sean Young had started at centre-back in this one, but with Aparicio’s injury he moved into the midfield alongside Toussaint and the pair combined very well to smother the Calgary midfield and force them wide or into hopeful long-balls.
Easton Ongaro gets his goal
Ongaro returned to the Canadian Premier League this season after time in Romania and Vancouver Whitecaps 2. He got some opportunities in the opener against Vancouver FC but was delighted to get off the mark for the club, especially against the side who drafted him in 2018. The 6’ 6” striker is a physical presence in the box and that’s exactly how his goal came. Even with Charlie Trafford and Callum Montgomery around the striker, he still got to the ball first to direct the ball to the far post past Marco Carducci in the Cavalry goal.
At times, Ongaro receives too many long, aerial balls which he isn’t winning. In the opener against Vancouver FC, he was involved in five aerial duels and only won one. Ongaro received a number of these types of challenges again last night and the success rate when stats are released will no doubt look very similar. What he did get the chance to show is his ability on the ball. It can be forgotten with his size how good he can be with the ball at his feet, its an old stereotype which can be hard to shake. In the 74th minute, we saw Ongaro pick up the ball in transition, carrying the ball from just inside the Cavalry half, beating two players and getting into the box, although he ended up shooting wide. Ongaro can be used in many different ways, and with that goal, his confidence and chemistry with his teammates looks to be growing.
Gazdov looking assured
A lot has been said about moving on from Callum Irving with two young goalkeepers. Emil Gazdov has grasped the starting role so far, and last night he played in just his fourth game for Pacific FC. With difficult conditions and a tough match up, Gazdov really stood up well to the challenges.
He made an excellent reflex save in the 22nd minute from a Mayer Bevan header. While moving left he shifted his weight and moved his feet quickly to change direction and dive to his right to get a strong hand on the ball and keep the tie level at the point. Gazdov looked assured throughout, and is off to a great as start in showing why James Merriman has such confidence in his 19-year-old goalkeeper. He also showed great mental strength after the ball slipped under him with the first penalty in the shoot-out. Less confident players may have let it get to them, but Gazdov continued to make himself big, and won the tie for his side with a save from Daan Klomp’s penalty. This gave Mukumbilwa the chance to score the fifth for Pacific and send them into the next round.
From TSS Rovers heroics with their 3-1 win over Valour this week, Pacific FC will host the League1 B.C. side in the next round on May 9, 2023.