It was ugly, nerve-racking, and maybe even a bit lucky.
But in the end, Pacific FC is heading home with its first title in Canadian Premier League (CPL) history.
The Langford-based club downed Forge FC in a gritty 1 – 0 win on Dec.5 on a chilly afternoon at Tim Horton’s Field. The winning goal came courtesy of B.C. – born midfielder Alessandro Hojabrpour in the 59’ minute.
Pacific becomes just the second CPL franchise to win the league championship. Hamilton’s Forge FC won the first two titles.
This year is the CPL’s third in operation.
Pacific FC wins against the odds
Despite being massively dominated in nearly every major statistical category, Pacific FC was able to gut out the win.
Forge led the game stats in:
- Total shots (17-6)
- Possession (70-30)
- Corners (10-2)
Shots on target were two apiece.
But when Pacific had the ball, they made the most of its opportunities, though. One case in point was Hojabrpour’s 59th-minute header.
That came off a pinpoint cross from Gianni Dos Santos from the near corner flag.
Pacific’s Josh Heard nearly doubled that tally minutes later when his shot rung off the crossbar.
Additional factors made the win even more unlikely.
On the road, Pacific dropped all three regular-season games to Forge.
Canadian soccer: a player in the betting industry?
With sports betting exploding in Canada, soccer remains an enigma.
On the one hand, PlayCanada reports immigrants are more than 20 percent of today’s Canadian population. Like basketball, many have brought their love of the world’s most popular sport with them.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean those eyeballs have transferred to Canada’s domestic pro league.
The MLS, EPL (English Premier League) and other top-tier international leagues remain the main draws. If the CPL is to jostle its way into the marketplace, Continued momentum forward is the key.
It appears headed in the right direction.
Recently the league announced the addition of its ninth club – a Vancouver-based franchise.
The management of that organization will be the same as Pacific FC’s.
CPL visibility should be on the rise as well. In October, OneSoccer – a specialty channel that will feature CPL games – inked a deal with Telus’ extended network.
World Cup could attract Canadian fans, sports bettors
One of the more obvious solutions to attract casual fans and bettors alike would be to utilize the upcoming World Cup.
The event will kick off in Qatar from Nov. 21 – Dec. 18, 2022.
Unfortunately, the spectacle will feature only a few of the CPL’s premier players. For example, on Dec. 14, the league handed out its season-ending awards.
Brazilian Joao Morelli was the night’s big winner snatching the Player of the Year and the Golden Boot (top-scorer), respectively. Yet it would be a miracle if the 25-year-old were to crack the Brazilian World Cup roster.
Pacific’s Hojabrpour – named the league’s U21 Canadian Player of the Year – has some international experience.
But that is in the youth system via the U17 Canadian national team.
There could be a backdoor accelerating the league’s growth, however.
Canada’s national team is currently on pace to qualify for its first World Cup in 36 years. They sit first in the Concacaf (North American) qualifying region and are ranked 40th globally.
That number ties the country’s previous highest FIFA ranking (1996).
Unfortunately, none of the 23 Canadians called up for the country’s most recent qualifying matches were CPL players. There were nine Canadians currently listed on MLS rosters, though.
Nonetheless, the ramifications of Canada playing on the big stage again can’t be understated. After all, CPL league rules have several regulations to ensure national talent features prominently.
All things considered, then the league could very well see a trickle-down effect, enticing more sports bettors and fans to the league.