Pacific FC’s herculean effort was rewarded with heartbreak as the Islanders lost in a penalty shootout against C.S. Herediano in Costa Rica in the second leg of their round of 16 CONCACAF League tie on Aug. 23.
The game was perhaps one of the most important in the team’s history and it delivered on the drama, with Gianni dos Santos scoring the tying goal on 89 minutes – after captain Jamar Dixon had been sent off – only for PFC to lose on penalties.
After the first leg, head coach James Merriman said the Costa Ricans had shown PFC respect with their defensive setup, and Herediano lined up the same way for the second leg, with a lead they could defend after winning 1-0 in Langford on Aug. 16.
The home team had more shots, but created few clear-cut chances throughout the game, with PFC looking more likely to score, especially in the second half.
Indeed the game was quiet until a moment of madness from Dixon snapped it to life. Taking possession of the ball in his own half, Dixon came under pressure from Herediano midfielder Douglas Lopez. Lopez appeared to swat his hands at Dixon a couple of times and in response, PFC’s captain swung an elbow towards the face of the Costa Rican. Lopez flopped to the floor and rolled around, but upon review, the referee had little choice but to send Dixon off.
A man down and needing a goal, PFC was up against it. Herediano nearly made the man advantage count immediately, with only Amer Didic’s large frame blocking a near certain Herediano goal on 56 minutes.
But Pacific battled and nearly scored a shorthanded goal soon after. Substitute dos Santos used his pace to break away and threaded a perfect pass to the on-rushing Marco Bustos, whose first-time shot appeared destined for the goal only for Herediano goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado to make a miraculous save with his feet on 69 minutes. Bustos nearly scored again after neat interplay between him and Josh Heard, with Alvardo again saving and dos Santos was flagged offside before he could smuggle home the rebound.
The Islander’s hopes seemed to be dashed against the rocks until dos Santos stepped up, hitting a low shot first time from the edge of the box into the net with a minute left, making the score 1-0 on the day and 1-1 on aggregate.
The game finished tied and headed to penalties. PFC took the lead early when Herediano missed the first spot kick, but would lose the advantage when Djenairo Daniels missed PFC’s fourth spot kick, and then Didic missed the last kick to allow Herediano to seal the win with their last penalty.
With the loss, PFC is out of the CONCACAF League at the round of 16 stage.