Is Manny Aparicio irreplaceable at Pacific FC?

As the squad was assembled this off-season, Pacific FC looked to have covered all bases. The arrivals of Easton Ongaro, Ayman Sellouf, Kakuta Manneh and Bradley Vliet amongst others have provided depth and quality all over the pitch.

So far though, while James Merriman’s side have a win over Cavalry in the Canadian Championship, their defeat against Forge FC this weekend leaves them with one win, one draw and one defeat from their opening three league games. All three games were at home, and overall, Merriman would have liked to have got much more from these matches before the slog of travel kicks in.

With the depth assembled, one injury has highlighted that nothing is perfect, and some players are incredibly hard to replace. When Manny Aparicio went down with injury in the Canadian Championship match against Cavalry, Pacific FC lost their talisman as well as their creative force in the midfield – something that has been easy to spot.

Pacific have three goals across their four games. While having plenty of possession across these games, getting clear shooting opportunities has been an issue. Against Forge they managed 15 shots, with just two on target after enjoying 52% of the possession, but so often it was all in front of a comfortable defence. In their prior league games against Cavalry, they took 22 shots with just six on target, winning that game 1-0. This has become a regular occurrence with Pacific FC making the most crosses (67) of any side in the league, though the second fewest key passes (six) according to Wyscout data. Easton Ongaro has looked a lonely figure, and other than his goal from a set piece, the other two have come from individual work from Sellouf and Aparicio.

Aparicio got the goal against Vancouver FC in the opening game with a shot from the edge of the box, and it is this zone where, with him missing, Pacific FC lose the chance to be creative. Sean Young, Cedric Toussaint and Steffen Yeates have all performed very well in the midfield, though when they get into this area approaching the box, they are unable to be as creative as Aparicio. With defences sitting deep and willing to defend the crosses coming in, Pacific need to work out a way to draw teams higher up the field.

Ongaro was successful in FC Edmonton as a counterattacking side, not one that dominates possession. Pacific’s style requires more from him and the players around him to get the goals flowing. Ongaro has won just 18% of his aerial duels according to Wyscout in the Canadian Premier League – three of 16. He has also only received an average of 4.9 passes per game over the opening three matches, six in the first against Vancouver but then just two passes and three passes in the following two games. With just three passes received against Forge in the last game, compare this with Ayman Sellouf on the wing who received 25 passes. This highlights just how much is going into wide areas, and how little they are working the ball into central areas.

While Aparicio works his way back to full fitness, his ability and influence on the team is clear to see, especially when he came on against Forge and immediately made Pacific a more threatening side but couldn’t find the equalising goal. With Pierre Lamothe trying to get himself fit enough for his debut, he could be seen as someone to back-up and use in the rotation with Aparicio, as well as take some of the burden off his shoulders. Pacific’s system currently requires a lot of precision in the final third, and if the chances don’t become available, crosses and shots from distance are the result. They are one of the top sides on paper in this league, and once they become more free-flowing in the final third, the points should come for them.

Having Aparicio back for the trip to Ottawa this weekend, as discussed, is vital. Can Pacific find their attacking form against the other CPL Championship finalists from last season? Stylistically, it remains to be seen, but Aparicio should certainly help.

(Image Credit: Pacific FC)

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