Pacific FC started life without Alejandro Diaz with a stout performance against playoff challengers Atletico Ottawa, winning 1-0 in front of their home crowd Saturday (Aug. 13).
The team transferred Diaz to Norway for a club record fee and the team’s front line had an unfamiliar but fluid shape to it. Josh Heard led the line for PFC with Kunle Dada-Luke, usually a right back, popping up occasionally, and it was Heard who sealed the win for PFC with an early goal.
Heard’s goal was well taken if out of the blue. Nathan Mavila, back starting at left back, fired a long curling ball up field which caught the Ottawa defence napping. Heard, always fleet on his feet, got in behind and side-footed past Ottawa’s goalkeeper to give PFC the lead with eight minutes played.
That lead held for the rest of the game – a cagey encounter. PFC’s defence marshalled the game well, reinforced with Abdou Samake forming a back-three with first choice pairing Amer Didic and Thomas Meilleur-Giguere. Ottawa’s most threatening moments were shut down by the offside trap, former Barcelona B player Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla rounding goalkeeper Callum Irving and scoring after the lineman had flagged for offside.
Irving would be called upon a couple of times, saving smartly down low after Ottawa’s Keven Aleman had gone on a mazy run and fired away a shot.
The referee also waved off late penalty claims by both teams. First Heard received a booking for diving after it appeared that an Ottawa defender had shoved him. Then protests by Atletico fell on deaf ears during a scramble in the book during the dying seconds.
With the win, PFC has won five straight in Canadian Premier League play. With Forge FC losing on Friday, Pacific is now level on points with the Hamilton-based team, with Forge ahead on goal difference and a game in hand.
PFC was also without Matthew Baldisimo, who had departed on loan to York United, with young Quebec midfielder Cedric Toussaint moving the other way but not making an appearance on the field.