TSS Rovers head coach Will Cromack isn’t sure if he’s recovered from the last celebration party.
On Wednesday night on Vancouver Island, he’ll look to guide his group to yet another celebratory night as they take on Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship quarterfinals.
On April 19, the Rovers, or Pirates, as they’ve come to be known, became the first League 1 Canada club to beat a professional team in the Canadian Championship, eliminating Winnipeg’s Valour FC 3-1 at Swangard Stadium.
Now they’ve set sail to Langford, BC, where they’ll face the 2021 Canadian Premier League Champions, aiming to pen the latest chapter of their Canadian footballing fairytale.
“We’re sitting in a hotel room on a pro team bus and training in a pro stadium, and these guys are excited about it,” Cromack said before kickoff from his Vancouver Island hotel room. “I don’t even know how to describe what it meant already. It took me a while to recover from the last party.”
Canada’s first supporter-owned club is already smashing barriers in Canadian soccer and is a constant League 1 BC title contender, despite a less-than-stellar start. So far this season, the men have been held winless and are coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Victoria Highlanders.
Still, with age restrictions, the men’s team has been undermanned from the group they can roll out for the Voyageurs Cup tournament matches, one that ultimately played Valour off the pitch two weeks ago.
“That [Victoria] was a poor game, and I think everybody was thinking about this game; the information that’s supposed to come through to the players is consistency,” Cromack said.
A hockey analogy some Vancouver people would understand, the Sedins; were available; they were there every day chipping away doing their job, and on a bad day, they were a 7/10…we want to make sure that our guys recognize that.”
Taking on Pacific FC is no doubt a momentous task for the club, and with over 100 Rovers supporters and owners expected to make their way to Starlight Stadium for the affair, it’s bound to be a special night.
While the Rovers aren’t in the best form in their red and black, several players recently won the BC Provincial A Cup with BB5 United while also getting minutes in League 1. At the same time, there’s been an emphasis on the Pacific match since the final whistle against Valour.
Yet, there’s a much bigger challenge with the Vancouver Islanders. Pacific comes off a 4-1 win away from home against Atletico Ottawa, in a performance that could rank among the club’s best, with the Rovers being right next in the line of fire.
“With all due respect to Valour, I think there’s a deeper Pacific,” Cromack said. “They have more off the bench. A lot of it, arguably, could be better than some of the guys that maybe are consistently starting.”
Pacific will likely field an experienced lineup to avoid the upset, with players such as Manny Aparicio, Sean Young, Josh Heard, and Easton Ongaro, four facets that are among the CPL’s best. While Ongaro hasn’t quite gotten off to a roaring start as Pacific’s striker, he remains a treating goalscorer. He already has a Canadian Championship goal from their first-round win over Cavalry.
“We believe. But we have no illusions we are coming in as favourites,” Cromack said. “We have to be perfect. We can’t play the moment, just the players in front of us.”
While the home match brought the comforts of an aging stadium, a home crowd and some advantageously long grass, it also came with the weight of hosting, raising roughly $35k to host Valour. Despite the thousands of tickets sold, the club barely broke even.
“This might be one of the few occasions you’re more relaxed going away. We don’t know the stadium. It’s not our home pitch or anything like that, but we don’t have to worry about who’s what volunteer group of moms and dads are coming out to run the merchandise booth,” Cromack added.
“That’s a little bit of a burden which we welcome, and we welcomed, but yeah, I would say we are more focused in the last 48 hours on the football.”
With the weight off their shoulders, and in the second round of a tournament where many expected them to be eliminated in the first, the Pirates are on the Island, looking to take the win and bring home the bounty of a semifinal at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps or York United.
Kickoff on Wednesday is set for 7:00 pm PT at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC, streaming live on OneSoccer.ca