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[FM21] - A Pacific Journey


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Over recent years, I've had a small break from Football Manager and was excited to get back in to FM21. Some wonderful career updates have taken me to the German Third Division, American Samoa and pushing for titles in Colombia.

I've enjoyed my recent game, an exploration in to Canada, and felt it was worth a career journey.

The Aim

To take a Canadian team to Champions League glory.

The League

Canada will be the loaded league with a large database. The Canadian Premier League is a new concept to grow Canadian football, launched in 2019, with 8 teams from 5 of the 10 Canadian provinces.

League Format

In a normal season, each team plays 28 games, including 14 home and 14 away. The first overall team qualifies directly for the CPL Finals, whilst the second and third places teams play a single play off game to qualify for the final. There are 8 clubs:

Atletico Ottawa (previously Ottawa Fury of the USL (USA) and now owned by their Spanish counterparts)

Cavalry FC

FC Edmonton (who gave up their place in the NASL (USA))

Forge FC

HFX Wanderers FC

Pacific FC

Valour FC

York9 FC (now York United FC in real life).

 

Forge FC won the inaugural season defeating Cavalry FC in the finals 2-0.

 

Edited by BS_8
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Pacific FC

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Pacific Football Club is a professional Canadian Football Club, based in Greater Victoria, British Colombia. Pacific FC was the seventh team to join the Canadian Premier League in time for the 2019 season.

Founded: 2019

Stadium: Starlight Stadium (6,200 capacity)

Colours: Purple and Teal

Sponsor: Volkswagen

There are 8 teams in the Canadian Premier League and with Forge FC current Champions, this ruled them out. The strongest teams with the strongest squads were favourite to win the Island Games, a Covid 19 tournament to finish the 2020 season, more about that later. These teams were Forge FC, Cavalry FC, York9 FC and Atletico Ottawa. This ruled these teams out for me, I wanted a challenge rather than go in with the best squad. I like to shape a team and have a bit of time to do that. 

FC Edmonton have existed in other leagues and with HFX's terrible logo this ruled them out for me. With a small squad and plenty of opportunity to shape the team to my ideas, I went with Pacific FC and here the journey begins.

Edited by BS_8
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Pacific FC

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Getting Started

It was clear that squad changed frequently, or I should expect them to. Half of the squad had contracts expiring at the end of the season and the remainder expired at the end of the next season. It looks like a maximum of 2 year contracts were available, so something to consider.

Covid-19 had a say at this point, so for the 2020 season, the Island Games were introduced, to be played at one location. 8 teams in a league would play each other once in Phase 1, with the top 4 qualifying for Phase 2. Those 4 would play each other once with the top 2 going through to the CPL Final, or Island Games Final where the winner would be crowned Champions.

Money is tight in the leagues, with players ranging from £100 p/week to £1,000 p/week, however, you must have a minimum squad of 15 and no more than 23 players. I had a tight wage budget and some transfer money to spend, but not much. It is also worth noting you are required to have a certain number of Canadians and Under 21s in your match squad, with the U21s gaining a combined number of minutes through the season. There are no reserve or youth teams, so your squad is what you have to work with for the season.

With this in mind, I used the scouting budget to send my scout to work, to see what he was able to come up with. At left back, I had El Capitan and Canadian stalwart Marcel de Jong and some technically better players in the wide areas of the pitch. I was short on the right side of the midfield area and only had one striker. With 4 attacking left midfield players in my small squad, I set about moving one to central midfield and offered one to clubs for £20,000. Victor Blasco was wanted by Forge FC and the transfer was completed, giving me some extra funds, to work with. I moved these to my wage budget and set on looking at a formation that would suit the team.

Pre-Season

Having looked at the players available, I was settled on a 4-3-3 formation. The abundance of central midfielders and the number and versatility of the defenders made this a sensible choice. I needed to address three areas: Depth of the squad, a right sided winger and a striker. First up, was English Football League and Canadian legend Iain Hume who signed with a whole bunch of promises, but more importantly a very favourable contract, for two years and also his chosen number was that of Victor Blasco who had left the club. He would offer competition in forward areas and a great player for this league.

Our first game was away to Unionville, a semi professional club in Ontario which resulted in a 3-0 victory for us, with Hume scoring twice. A nice start but the lack of depth showing. There was no other friendlies after that, however, we had 3 weeks until the league started. Very concerned by the finances, I organised a friendly league, and invited Colorado Rapids, Vancouver Whitecaps and Tacoma all from USA. The gates and the television coverage for this league would be a huge financial help, whether to strengthen the squad or to provide profitability, something I'm not sure how easy this will be. 

With it proving hard to add to the squad, we embarked on the friendly league, with the following results:

Pacific FC 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Pacific FC 1-2 Colorado Rapids
Pacific FC 2-1 Tacoma

Having won the game we expected to, the draw and narrow defeat to the MLS sides was of huge encouragement. However, the 3 quick close games and the lack of squad depth resulted in terrible news. Club captain and all round legend Marcel de Jong was out for up to 9 weeks with sprained knee ligaments. The way the season is set, that is pretty much it for 2020, so we added a versatile defender to our search. International players weren't overly interested in coming to play in Canada, so we had to be clever locally to see what we could find.

We brought in a young striker on a season long loan, Solomon Antwi from Valour FC without costing us a penny, just as a back up if we were desperate. This was followed by versatile Canadian Andrew Lebre, who could cover all positions across the back on a very favourable contract. Lastly, we attempted to loan two exciting prospects, one from Toronto and the other from Vancouver. Unfortunately, we didn't have the funds for both, so Theo Bair was signed from Vancouver, a exciting forward player, who was strong and quick, something useful in this division.

Despite hard work to find one more, we couldn't quite add what we wanted to the squad, but we pretty successful window, as we headed in to our last game of pre-season, against Whitecaps Academy. A comfortable 4-0 win and everyone else fit and ready to go, we registered 22 players (including de Jong). This excluded a 16 year old keeper who is on loan to a Bundesliga club, may be there are high hopes for him. We were ready for the season to begin, hopefully we had enough in the squad to be competitive.

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Pacific FC

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Phase 1:

HFX Wanderers 2 - 2 Pacific FC
An opening season disaster looked on the cards, when just after 2 minutes, HFX took the lead. We hit back quickly from loanee Theo Bair and headed in to the break level. Wanderers took control of the second half and retook the lead in the 54th minute, before controlling the next 30 minutes. Theo Bair hit a sucker punch 84th minute equaliser and before we struck the post in injury time. Unsure of the league, but seeing as HFX looked to be a team at our level, it was great to get a point, but very concerning that we were dominated.

Pacific FC 3 - 3 York9 FC
A tough fixture next, vs one of the favourites in the league. A dominating first half saw young central midfielder Alessandro Hojarbrpour put us in front on the half hour, which was quickly followed by striker Alejandro Diaz doubling the lead just 4 minutes later. The manager's nerves around half time team talks set in, and he knew he didn't select correctly. Would it be costly. 20 seconds in to the second half, it showed. York9 with a set piece to pull a goal back. Pacific were able to withstand the pressure and some managerial tweaks established control. Diaz added his second to the game and Pacific's third with 14 minutes to go. The manager's nerves set in and some questionable decisions led to uncertainty in the team. York9 pulled a second back in the 85th minute and completed the comeback 3 minutes later. Pacific held on for the draw. A very good point against a strong side, but this one was on the manager.

Forge FC 2 - 0 Pacific FC
Next up we were up against run away leaders at this point, Forge. 3 wins from 3. Despite controlling the game, Forge didn't seem to create many chances, and then right on half time, centre back David Edgar, a name many will recognise, rose highest to score from a corner. As the second half started, Forge came out of the blocks and within 2 minutes, it was 2-0. The game was over. Pacific weren't able to create much. A tough game against one of the leagues best. 3 games without a win, was becoming concerning.

Pacific FC 2 - 1 Valour FC
Games were coming thick and fast with 3/4 days between them. We had one day extra rest, before this game, and with Valour losing all 3 previous, this was an opportunity. The fatigue was clear to see, as Pacific came out and controlled the first half, hitting the woodwork twice, before Theo Bair slotted away his third goal of the season, to put Pacific in front. The second half continued in the same format, before Diaz added his third of the season, to double the lead. Missed opportunities could have been costly when Valour hit back with 7 minutes to go, but the game was comfortable, our first win, moved us to the edge of qualification.

Cavalry FC 1 - 3 Pacific FC
Another game against one of the better sides in the division and again we were able to have an extra rest, due to us all playing at a neutral ground, the fixtures were split. Calvary were not prepared for a Pacific side who had just won their first game. Two Theo Blair goals either side of a Alejandro Diaz goal, gave Pacific a comfortable and deserved half time lead. Half way through the second half, Cavalry pulled one back, but they just weren't in the game. Pacific, learning from mistakes previously, controlled the game and moved up to 4th with the win. Qualification became a very real possibility.

Pacific FC 1 - 2 Atletico Ottawa
After back to back wins, Pacific were ready for the game against the new league leaders. Atletico had recently beaten Forge to take top spot and so we were tested yet again. Fatigue, injuries and rotation becoming a real issue for every team as we neared the end of Phase 1. A dominating start from Pacific was undone when Atletico were awarded a penalty half way through the first half. This was comfortably slotted away. 8 minutes later, Pacific would have their chance from the spot and Diaz stepped up comfortably to equalise. Ateltico dominated from then until half time. A very back and forth game, where Ateltico's quality was the difference, with a long range effort on 61 minutes to retake the lead. Pacific weren't able to find the equaliser. A very encouraging performance to compete with the league leaders, but ultimately another loss.

FC Edmonton 1 - 1 Pacific FC
With Valour, York9 and HFX all losing in the run up to this game, we would qualify if we avoided heavy defeat. We took on bottom of the table FC Edmonton, where a few changes were made, with an eye on the next round and the good teams that stood in the next Phase. Something which could backfire. Pacific did not get going all half. Players were not cohesive and the only saving grace was that FC Edmonton were not very good. Yet, as half time approached, they won a penalty and managed to go in to the break in the lead. Nothing changed for Pacific in the second half, fitness of fringe players and a lack of quality was telling, but a life line was thrown when the goalscorer for Edmonton was sent off for a bad tackle. A long strike from exciting winger Terran Campbell secured a point, as Pacific couldn't go on to find the winner.

This result meant we finished 4th and were heading in to Phase 2! Totally unexpected and a great achievement.

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Pacific FC

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Phase 2:

We qualified as the 4th best team in the first phase, with 3 of the 4 better clubs in this phase too. We play each other once and the top 2, go in to the final.

Forge FC vs Pacific FC
Up first we had Forge. This is apparently a rivalry and they have a far superior squad. There was a lot of build up, but we were happy to be here. I'd achieved more than the board wanted already, so we were going to enjoy this. Forge controlled much of the game, however, 9 minutes in, we hit them on our terrifying counter and Hume scores! What a start, oh, wait, the flag is up and it is disallowed for offside! Forge continue to dominate the ball without creating many dangerous chances, have we finally found a way to stop them? We win the ball back and Diaz is in, yessss! The ball hits the back of the net after being dinked over the keeper and no, no the linesman has his flag up, offside. 2 disallowed goals in the first 20 minutes, luck isn't on our side. Forge continue to dominate and score a rebound 3 minutes before half time to make their pressure be told. The boys were told to enjoy the game. We had Cavalry next with less rest time so as Forge continued to dominate and create chance after chance, all 5 subs were made, to save our bombarding defenders and creative players. A time runs down, Hojabrpour gets and injury that will keep him our for the rest of the season and means we have the final 10 minutes with 10 men. The formation stays the same with all eyes on the Cavalry game. 3 minutes of added time are almost up, Diaz is in on goal. Yessss! As expected he hits the back of the net again, but no! The linesman has his flag up for offside! What a frustrating game. As we head well over the added time, the ball is picked up and played through to Diaz, who slots it in to the bottom corner! GOAAALLLLL! 90+4, the flag is down, it stands! What a finish! A great point.
Forge FC 1 - 1 Pacific FC

Pacific FC vs Cavalry FC
Suffering with a day's less rest than Cavalry, the balance of the squad was so important, however, other than us, these were the weakest opponents in this group. A win here would give us every chance of qualifying for the final, something we could only dream of. Riding the crest of confidence from the previous game, Pacific fly out of the blocks and Diaz scores again. This man is on fire! Cavalry equalise with their first attack 10 minutes later. During the second half, players were tiring and changes needed to be made. The balance between keeping players fit and trying to win the game was a tough one, but the uneventful second half and lack of quality saw the game finish in a draw. A missed opportunity here. Qualification will be extremely difficult now.
Pacific FC 1 - 1 Cavalry FC

Pacific FC vs Atletico Ottawa
Finally, we were up against the stand out team of the division. They had beaten Forge in both the first phase and the second, whilst being top scorers too. They oozed quality through the team but we had an extra day rest. A strong squad from Pacific was put out, however, lacked a little depth due to fatigue and injury. Atletico started well and dominated much of the ball, but didn't look dangerous, much like Forge earlier in this phase. 20 minutes in and centre back Luke MacNaughton comes in with a horror tackle and is rightly sent his marching orders. Pacific are down to 10 men with 70 minutes to go! The manager moved to a 4-4-1 with a number of players out of position, however, they held on to half time. Reluctant to change anything, Pacific held on, whilst Atletico controlled the ball. On 67th minute, they were dispossessed and the ball was slotted through for Diaz, and in usual fashion, he hit the back of the net! 1-0! Atletico huffed and puffed, but Pacific controlled the clock. Tactical substitutions and game management constantly broke up the clock. We did it! What a win!
Pacific FC 1 - 0 Atletico Ottawa

 

With Forge FC beating Cavalry FC in the other final game, it meant we topped the group with Forge pipping Atletico to second place! The final is on!

 

The Final

Forge FC vs Pacific FC

We were almost at full strength and were able to welcome Marcel de Jong to the bench for the last game of the season, having joined full training the day before. What an occasion to have the stalwart back! Forge were strong again and the game was in a similar vein to the previous. Forge controlled much of the ball, however, we were able to break it down and stop them creating any decent chances. On 27 minutes we were able to hold some sustained pressure, when a cross came in and was punched clear by Forge's keeper, it fell to young midfielder Sean Young on the edge of the area to fire in! What a strike from the young Canadian midfielder who was in for Hojabrpour after his big injury. The game followed suit and with experience from previous games the manager held off substitutions. Attack after attack came from Forge, with keeper Nolan Wirth in fine form. However, Forge just could not create the opening required and Pacific held on to the final whistle.

 

We were Champions!
Forge FC 0 - 1 Pacific FC

 

Phase 2 Table

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