The Vancouver Whitecaps quest for a Canadian Championship three-peat took them to familiar territory.

Pacific FC was the opponent. The venue was Langford’s Starlight Stadium. The Whitecaps were familiar as they faced Pacific in two of the last three Canadian Championships. Starlight Stadium was the sight of the infamous 4-3 Whitecaps loss in 2021 which marked the end of Marc Dos Santos as Whitecaps head coach. Last season, the Whitecaps beat Pacific in the semi-finals.

This time around, there were two legs. Pacific was never going to be easy and teams from the Canadian Premier League should never be underestimated. After all, Pacific is tied for third in the CPL table. They have also given the least amount of goals in the CPL and lead the league in clearances, and takeaways and are second in interceptions. Despite the numerous injuries they had, Pacific was hungry for a repeat of 2021.

The game was scrappy but the Whitecaps got the job done. Well, they got the job done for now. The second leg at BC Place isn’t until August 27 but it is big Vancouver drew first blood.

Match musings

  • It wasn’t the best start for the Whitecaps. For most of the first half, the Whitecaps weren’t sharp enough. There weren’t enough chances and the final touch would fail them.
  • Levonte Johnson grew into the game and showed his pace and agility. He was fouled three times and completed 16 out of his 19 passes but only one out of his three total shots hit the target
  • As for Ralph Priso, he was just…there? He made some decent short passes but other than that, he didn’t offer too much and did not make a single tackle.
  • This was a battle of the goaltenders. Isaac Boehmer stood on his head for Vancouver and made five saves including off Josh Heard and Aymen Selloff. But Pacific’s Emil Gazdov was a huge reason why this game was close. The 20-year-old made some big saves but none bigger than off Brian White’s second-half header. That is a classic White goal but Gazdov made sure it didn’t happen. I’ve failed to score chances like that in FIFA and the goalkeepers make saves and I feel gutted when it happens. Gazdov’s save was something out of a video game.
  • The Whitecaps did get their goal later in the half. The cross was from Mathias Laborda was beautiful. But what was better was the header from Ryan Gauld. No chance for Gazdov there. The goal was perfect right down to the last-minute details.
  • Pacific looked poised to score with their transitions. Along with Boehmer, Laborda, Ranko Veselinovic and Bjorn Inge Utvik did a solid job defending. Utvik deserves some plaudits for his big block on Heard late in the first half.

Stat of the match

This one will go to Gazdov and his five saves. Otherwise, the tie would already be over.

What was said

“We knew it was going to be a very hard game,” said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini after the match. “I think it played out the kind of game we expected. This season in the CPL, (Pacific) are a more solid defensive team…I think we won deservedly but the game was very tight (and) very intense…I’m satisfied by the effort of the guys.”

“I think it is all about focus,” said Boehmer. “Every ball we played we focused for everything and we showed in the 90 minutes and we were ready for it. We knew it was never going to be easy and we just came and did what we had to do.”

Best of Twitter

Best heads up

It seemed that the fan was OK. But if you are sitting near the pitch, be aware the ball might come flying at you at any time. Keep your head up!

Best My Eyes!

Yikes. Though to be fair, it was expected that the sun would go down and would be shining in that area. But that must have been a pain to sit or stand through. Hopefully, he and the other fans brought sunglasses.

Best Flying Scotsman

The Whitecaps without Gauld would be a horror movie. I don’t want to watch that. It might be too gruesome and disturbing for many audiences.

Best long have I waited

It was nice to see both Belal Halbouni and Surrey’s Jeevan Badwal make their debuts. Halbouni was signed last winter and we haven’t seen him play for the Whitecaps first team until now. Badwal has impressed with Whitecaps FC 2. We’ll watch their careers with great interest.


This game was pretty much expected to go the way it did. Vancouver will now have to focus on another away game as they play St. Louis City SC this Saturday. Kickoff is at 7:30 pm Pacific.