Pacific FC suffers tough loss in first-leg of CONCACAF tie

Josh Heard hurdles a challenge from a C.S. Herediano defender during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)Josh Heard hurdles a challenge from a C.S. Herediano defender during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)
Fans packed into the stadium for the game, more than 4,600, to witness Pacific FC play against C.S. Herediano during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)Fans packed into the stadium for the game, more than 4,600, to witness Pacific FC play against C.S. Herediano during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)
Thomas Meilleur-Giguere challenges a C.S. Herediano attacker during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)Thomas Meilleur-Giguere challenges a C.S. Herediano attacker during their CONCACAF round of 16 tie at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 16. (Simon Fearn/Black Press Media)

Pacific FC lost in heartbreaking fashion in the first leg of their CONCACAF round of 16 tie against C.S. Herediano Tuesday (Aug. 16) night.

A near-capacity crowd watched on in dismay as PFC’s efforts went unrewarded throughout the game, only for Herediano to steal the win in the last 10 minutes.

Herediano, the Costa Rican powerhouses, won the CONCACAF League in 2018 and has made several appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League (the first-tier North America competition) in the past.

The Costa Ricans were well drilled, pressing PFC’s midfield early on and making it difficult for the home team to progress the ball. The away team seemed to have more control over the game initially but were limited to the occasional half-chance. Herediano was set up defensively, something that surprised Pacific FC’s head coach James Merriman.

“They usually play a 4-4-2 or even more aggressive 2-4-4 when they’re on the ball and attacking from what we’ve seen, so it shows a little bit of respect from them, but still, their attacking players are quality,” Merriman said after the match.

PFC did seem to grow into the game as it went on. A neat one-two between Djenairo Daniels and Marco Bustos nearly saw PFC get the opener on 36 minutes. As the Herediano defender scrambled to intercept the pass, he wrong-footed the keeper and nearly turned it into his own net, but the ball bobbled just wide.

The best chance of the half came on 41 minutes, Bustos playing in an early cross from the right with Daniels stealing in front of the defender and pinging his header off the post. Josh Heard swung a foot but missed the rebound.

Daniels was a dangerous man throughout but he was at risk of being sent off after an early yellow card, but Merriman said he managed the rest of the game well.

“He plays with a lot of fire and plays with a big passion and he gets excited. He’s 20 years old, still very young but he’s working on it. He’s learning to control his emotions and in a game like this, I think he’ll grow and he’ll improve.”

Daniels will likely have an increasingly important role for the team moving forward.

PFC started the second half well, with Heard jinking past his opposing fullback a couple of times and putting the ball into dangerous areas. The home team had much more of the ball as the game went on but struggled to find a breakthrough.

Both teams started to look leggy late on and it cost PFC as Herediano scored against the run of the play on 82 minutes, Jefferson Brenes heading into the bottom corner past PFC goalkeeper Callum Irving from close range, making the score 1-0 to Herediano.

PFC plays the return leg in seven days against Herediano in Costa Rica on Aug. 23. Before that they play on the east coast against Halifax Wanderers on Aug. 20.

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