At the start of the 2022 CANPL season, Woobens Pacius appeared to have lost his place at the top of Forge FC‘s attack. The Hammers had brought in Pacific icon Terran Campbell, who had haunted Forge among many other Canadian Premier League teams en route to Pacific’s Playoff victory in 2021. But Forge’s attack didn’t fully click in the opening weeks of the season, and they struggled to find the right chemistry, particularly with Campbell’s desire to engage lower on the pitch and support the play.
In came Woobens Pacius to restore faith to Forge’s fervid attack, and the Hammers immediately went on a stunning run of form. Now as they challenge for the 2022 CPL title, Woobens Pacius has continued to score goals for fun, even when remaining somewhat of a distant character in games. So as Pacius leads the charge for Forge’s attack, we take a look at the technical and tactical aspects of his game, and whether or not he could be set for a move away from the CPL.
ATTACKING PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Woobens Pacius would best be described within our RCES System as a ‘Target’. He’s capable of playing with his back to goal and linking the play, but he comes alive in the penalty area, as he pops up to score goals and hammer home a finish. The young Canadian has an adept awareness of space, understanding how and when to ghost into the box, where to position himself between defenders, and how to arc his runs to the benefit of his teammates. In his desire to pull defenders back and remain relatively disengaged in linking the play across other phases, he simultaneously allows the best to come out of the creative types, such as Tristan Borges and David Choinière – who have thrived in creating chances into his path this season.
The 21-year-old’s heatmap clearly indicates the signs of a true ‘Target’, someone who spends the bulk of their time making an impact in the final third of the pitch, and almost exclusively in central channels.
He also spikes high around the centre circle, where he’s often used to bounce passes to others, and start those initial transitional moments. Pacius remains excellent at keeping his body in front of the ball, allowing him to win fouls or keep control as he drops deep and receives with pressure along his back.
The key for the future of his career will be in a better recognition of how long to hold onto the ball, as opposed to quick releases that he can then use to spin around his opposition defenders and race in behind. He loses the ball 5.7 times per game, with a dribble success rate of just 26%. For a player that touches the ball so few times in a match, this is worrying, and something that could hold the Canadian back from making that next step in his career. But it’s also perhaps a sign that the 21-year-old needs to prioritize playing to his strengths, such as getting in front of defenders and engaging with his back to goal.
With his back to goal, Pacius has completed 91% of his passes, with teammates often linking up in close proximity. It’s when he tries to pull off something more elaborate with a pass into the penalty area or a cross into the box that his lack of panache lets him down, with just a 55% pass success rate from forward thrusts.
Delving back into that heatmap, you can also see a slightly greater tendency to drift to the right and combine with Choinière, where he likes to get on his strong foot and drive. As he shifts wide to receive or run the channels, this is also the side that he tends to prioritize, receiving deep passes from the likes of Sissoko, Hojabrpour and Achinioti-Jonsson.
But it’s in the penalty area where Pacius truly comes alive. He makes smart adjustments at crucial moments to swerve away from a defender and get on their blindside. He’s adept at finishing off chances with his head, right foot or left foot, and his shot on target percentage is immaculate (58%). Arriving at the right moments to finish off chances allows that shot on target percentage to grow, where he’s constantly assessing whether to arrive in front of the defender, or on the blindside, in relation to the cross.
His shot map from all competitions this season paints a nice picture of how adept the Canadian is at finding pockets of space to bang one home in the penalty area.
Provided by Wyscout, you can see that the vast majority of shots Pacius takes on accumulate in and around the penalty spot. But he’s even able to find pockets of space in and around the six-yard-box – where his xG will skyrocket if left unmarked.
This is a clear elucidation of how well Pacius assesses moments to shoot the ball, and the types of positions he allows himself to get into before taking aim.
Quite decent in the air, Pacius has even won 56% of his aerial duels this campaign, remaining a constant powerhouse for the Hammers to use on high balls and crosses into the box. With an added bit of speed and skill to the mix, the 21-year-old has just about everything in his locker that you’d want of a centre-forward that prioritizes the physical characteristics of their game.
If he can just balance out these wonderful aspects with a recognition of when to shift wide as opposed to holding his central position; and improve upon his in-possession technical proficiencies, Woobens Pacius will undoubtedly be an MLS or European pro in no time.
DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Through being a pacey, dynamic player that endeavours to make the life of his opponents difficult, Woobens fully handles his own in defensive phases and plays to his strengths when engaging in Forge’s high press. Smyrniotis’ side endeavour to press from the front in a 4-1-4-1 shape, and trap the opposition before they can play through the thirds. They then look for Pacius as a vital option in transition, where the young Canadian can immediately use his hold-up strength to bounce the play off, or rampage toward goal on his own.
But from his own desire and willingness to set the traps into motion, Pacius often causes his opponents to go long out of fear, forcing turnovers and errors.
His astute awareness of angling and space means that he’s often able to get his body in front of the player on the ball and angle them wide, where both fullback and wing are ready to step and intercept the ball.
In other words, as soon as his opposition centre-backs are about to receive the ball, you will be sure to see Pacius immediately step up to the challenge, and angle his body in such a way that forces the player into a difficult pass. The acuteness of that angle often points to where his teammates are ready to step, ensuring his team have a higher probability in winning back possession.
In terms of his own responsibilities, Pacius balances the line between leading the press, and stepping in with moments of aggressiveness when required. He’s won five of the six tackles he’s attempted this season, clearly showcasing a strong knowhow of when to put a foot in, and when to delay the attack instead.
His positional knowhow has also manifested in 1.69 recoveries in the opposition half per 90, and 1.07 interceptions, decent numbers for a centre-forward in a possession-based team. He’s even kept his bookings to a minimum, picking up just 2 yellow cards in his 18 appearances. This is just one more concrete example of Woobens’ solid understanding of timing, ensuring he’s conserving his aggressive energy for explosive attacks on the break.
So while a player like Terran Campbell may have more raw strength to use to their advantage, Woobens continues to be selected not just for his ability in front of goal, but for his ability to press from the front with the right intensity, angling and vigour.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
While there are still holes worth clearing up in his game, Woobens Pacius is clearly among the echelon of CPL strikers, and would be ready to take that next step in his career. His ability in front of goal is practically unrivalled in the league, particularly in his precise movement into positions that allow him to finish off chances. We put him in the ‘Target’ category within our system, but he’s fully capable of handling his own in defensive phases too, pressing like his life depends on it.
He’s an absolute workhorse for Bobby Smyrniotis’s team, and perfectly fits the style of play, without over-involving himself between the phases. He lurks around defenders waiting for his moment to pounce, and makes it count at the crucial moment to finish off his chances. This is one of the essential characteristics of any elite striker, and one that will take Woobens Pacius far in his career.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of Woobens Pacius this season in the Canadian Premier League. Do you think Woobens has what it takes to make it to the next level in his career? Be sure to join the discussion below, and follow on social media @desmondrhys and @mastermindsite for more CPL content. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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