Two of the league’s most in-form teams face off on Vancouver Island this weekend, with fourth place Cavalry FC travelling to Vancouver Island to take on league-leaders Pacific FC.
Cavalry have won three of their last four games, and are coming of an impressive 2-0 win away in Winnipeg against Valour FC. Defensively, they looked sharp, dealing with the speedy threats of Pacifique Niyongabire and Jared Ulloa, as well as the impressive midfield trio Phillip Dos Santos uses to try and control the game.
Cavalry have plenty of pace in their attack as well, and Goteh Ntignee will certainly provide Kunle Dada-Luke plenty of challenges. The 21-year-old winger has scored in back-to-back games, and his blistering pace has terrified full-backs week to week. This battle down the right-hand side is going to be fascinating and no doubt exciting. I asked James Merriman about the wide matchup on Friday:
“It’s a good battle between the two.” Said Merriman “Yes, Kunle needs to aware of tracking Ntignee, but Goteh also needs to know he’s going to have to track Kunle. There both full of speed and power and it sets up a potentially nice tactical battle down that right hand side.”
Tommy Wheeldon Jr seems to have found a settled eleven recently, with very few changes unless forced upon him. His side look to be managing games well, and causing their opponents a lot of difficulties.
Merriman, meanwhile, having recently committed his future to Pacific with a three-year guaranteed contract, needs to move past a game he felt that his side let get away, one they should have managed better and secured the three-points against Ottawa. The 2-2 draw ended in lively scenes, so it is key for his side to re-focus now, with opponents keen to frustrate and slow down the runaway CPL leaders. Merriman commented on his side’s mentality in this regard:
“I don’t know if its because of the run, but we have felt it when teams come here to Starlight. It can be difficult at times to find a rhythm and its something we need to understand, expect and adapt to. We need to speed up the pace and move the game along, we can’t allow the game to keep stopping and starting”.
Despite these frustrations, Pacific’s run over the past four games has only seen them concede once from open play, and their central defensive pairing have been performing at an elite level.
“It’s the second season for Amir (Didic) and Thomas (Meilleur-Giguère) and their relationship has continued to grow, being that anchor for us and giving us that stability. Their leadership throughout the team is infectious.” Said Merriman.
Cavalry will provide a tough test in transition for Pacific, where the upcoming visitors have been highly effective. Ensuring that his side are prepared for these counter attacking transitions, a player like Cedric Toussaint could be vital in stifling what Cavalry will look to punish Pacific with.
“Cedric really provides that balance for us, with a lot of our central midfielders being true 8’s. Cedric allows us to control space. There’s a good chance we will see Cedric tomorrow.” Added Merriman.
On Saturday night at Starlight, we’ll have two teams in great form facing off against one another. Two of the “Big Three” sides in the Canadian Premier League, with two coaches ready to face the challenge. It should be another tight, yet exciting game at the top of the Canadian Premier League table.