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Pacific FC will have to find some goal-scoring finish or its season is finished. The Island-based Canadian Premier League club goes into the second leg of the two-legged soccer playoff semifinal today at 11 a.m. PT in the nation’s capital trailing 2-0 following two stunning late Atletico Ottawa goals against the flow of play in the opening game last week at Starlight Stadium.

The defending CPL-champion Tridents have been here before. The Tridents trailed the two-legged CONCACAF League Round of 16 set against CS Herediano 1-0 this summer following a late goal at Starlight Stadium. PFC went down to Central America to what PFC head coach James Merriman described as a “hostile environment” facing a daunting task in the second game against a Herediano squad that will provide the Costa Rica national team with six players next month in World Cup Qatar 2022. PFC won the second game 1-0 in San Jose before going down on penalty kicks.

“We went fearlessly down there knowing it was a challenge and accepted it. This is another challenge and we accept it,” said Merriman.

Even though the deficit is greater this time, it can be argued that going into a Central American environment down one goal was a tougher task than going into a Canadian setting down two goals, even with stingy Atletico Ottawa being the best defensive team in the CPL, and expected to be backed by a raucous crowd approaching 10,000 fans today at TD Place Stadium.

“They are expecting a big crowd, but we’ve come here confidently and will be aggressive. It’s our mentality. We are far from done,” said Merriman.

He said you can’t get both goals at once but just getting the first would unlock the game in many ways.

“As soon as we score one goal, that will open up the game,” said Merriman.

“We have nothing to lose now. We will go with everything we have.”

The Tridents players expressed confidence.

“Getting to the final last year was massive for us and we believe we can do it again,” said PFC captain Jamar Dixon.

The three-time Canada-capped Dixon has announced his retirement and this could be his last game. He is from Ottawa, so the occasion is heightened emotionally for him on several levels.

“Everyone is locked in and ready to go. The guys are up for it,” said Dixon.

“We have a task and are focused on what we need to do. In football, you need to score goals to win. It’s very simple for us. We’ve been here before many times this season with our backs against the walls and have come out victorious on many occasions.”

In what will be encouraging news for fourth-seed PFC considering the nature of the task at hand, Merriman said two attack-oriented players, midfielder Gianni dos Santos and forward Djenairo Daniels, injured the past two weeks, are both ready and available today.

Atletico Ottawa, owned by La Liga giant Atletico Madrid, was last in the league last season but won the CPL regular-season championship this year to be in the playoffs for the first time in fashioning a worst-to-first storyline.

The other CPL semifinal series, between third-seed Cavalry FC of Calgary and second-seed Forge FC of Hamilton, is tied 1-1 on aggregate with the second game today at Tim Hortons Field in the Steel City.

The semifinal winners advance to meet in the single-game CPL final for the North Star Shield next weekend at the home of the highest-remaining seed. The CPL champion will represent the league in 2023 CONCACAF play.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com



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