For the first time in Pacific FC’s history, they made the trip to Ottawa on Saturday evening, as they took on Atlético Ottawa. It was the first meeting of the two sides in the 2022 CPL season, and it came with an elevated level of importance, with Ottawa being just three points behind Pacific when the ball was kicked off. At the end of 90 minutes, Pacific had only extended their lead in the standings, shocking Atlético to win 1-0.
The star of the show was unquestionable Callum Irving, a player that Ottawa fans are familiar with, after he spent three seasons with Ottawa Fury FC. Despite seeing 11 shots on target come his way, Irving managed to keep a clean sheet, stealing three points for the Vancouver-based side.
“This is a place that I enjoyed playing for three years,” Irving said. “I was looking forward to this game a lot when I saw the schedule come out. Obviously, for me as a goalkeeper, the ultimate goal is to keep a clean sheet and get the three points.”
“I thought our team battled really hard today. We fought for it, and Ottawa didn’t make it easy on us, especially after we scored. At the end of the day, it’s a place I love coming, and I’m all the happier I was able to win.”
Without Irving, the story of the match could have been very different. Ottawa blasted 23 shots toward the 29-year-olds goal, with 11 being on target. Pacific, on the other hand, managed only two shots on target, with one coming late into added time on a breakaway chance that wasn’t converted. Ottawa had the better of the chances, and had their fair share of set pieces, particularly on their 11 corners.
“We came under a lot of pressure, credit to them,” said Pacific FC head coach James Merriman. “Callum Irving was excellent. He made some very important saves, big saves, so I’m happy for him to get the clean sheet. He earned it, he deserved it. Excellent performance for him.”
Although his performance was superb, Irving refused to take all the credit for the clean sheet.
“It’s a team effort every time,” he said. “I’m never going to keep a clean sheet and start saying my own name. Those two guys in front of me today were fantastic. Amer Didic, I can’t count how many headers he won today, in tough situations too. Same with Thomas Meilleur-Giguère. We have three really strong centrebacks that we rotate through, and whichever two are playing on the day, I have a lot of faith in.”
For Ottawa, the loss is disappointing, and in many aspects, undeserved. Their fate should have been better, and despite their lack of finishing ability in the match, it’s not concerning.
“I think we would be more concerned if we weren’t creating the opportunities,” said assistant coach Kwesi Loney. “It’s a matter of just finishing the chances we have, but the fact that we created as many as we did today is a good sign. It shows the quality that we have.”
After the loss, Ottawa doesn’t have much time to prepare for their next match. On Tuesday night, they will host York United in the Canadian Championship. For Pacific, their next match doesn’t come until May 14th, when they host FC Edmonton.
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