VICTORIA, BC — Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC continues to build a soccer culture on Vancouver Island. The club took down Valour FC 2-1 in front of an announced home crowd of 4,381 in a Saturday game that included the unveiling of new seating that increased capacity of Westhills Stadium from 5,000 to 6,000.
“Isn’t it beautiful? What a view,” Pacific FC CEO and co-owner Rob Friend said while sitting in one of the upper rows of the newly-opened stand. “Who would have thought that something like this was possible in Victoria.”
Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer called the new area “amazing.”
“I am happy that we come back here and see so many people here,” Silberbauer added.
With the completion of the third stand, Westhills Stadium is 3/4 completed. One aspect holding back expansion is a utility pole opposite the main stand.
“The idea is that the pole is going to get removed,” Friend said, adding that the city already verbally committed to building another stand on that side. “Which, for me, will put the finishing touches on the stadium-side of things. That will create that intimate environment that draws people to the game.”
In other words, Pacific FC remains a work in progress. But work in progress is a bit of a common theme in a league only six months old.
“It will take some time to be a part of the fabric of this community,” Friend said.
For Pacific FC, however, it has not just been a work in progress off the pitch. On the pitch, the team headed into Saturday’s match second from bottom in the Canadian Premier League standings.
“Obviously, we would have hoped to win more games,” Friend said. “I’m competitive. I want to win, but also have to understand this takes time and patience. I believe in our long-term philosophy.”
That philosophy includes integrating as many Canadians as possible in the starting XI. Saturday’s Pacific FC lineup saw seven Canadians start. Pacific FC has signed 12 players that were part of the Vancouver Whitecaps setup at one time or another.
“We have one of the youngest teams in the league,” Friend said. “We’re committed to finding young players, and ultimately that will grow the game in Canada.”
It is a commitment also shared by Valour FC. The Winnipeg-based club has an average squad age of 24.6 years, slightly lower than Pacific’s average age of 24.8 years. Pacific FC, however, on average have the youngest starting XI in the league.
Saturday’s match was a spirited affair in the first half. Both sides created chances and had rough plays inside the penalty box.
Valour FC forward Michele Paolucci was brought down inside the box by Pacific FC keeper Mark Village. On the other end of the pitch, Noah Verhoeven was brought down by a Valour defender right in front of the new stand. It could have been the first goal in front of the new Purple Wall, but referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere did not call a penalty.
⚽️#PacificFC open the Purple Wall
⚽️Take all three points
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) August 25, 2019
The game remained open throughout the second half.
In the 56th minute, Pacific FC’s Alexander Gonzalez missed the net with a shot from inside the box.
Two minutes later, spectators on the new stand finally saw their first goal — unfortunately it was for the opponent. Michael Petrasso headed home a cross from the right flank.
Just four minutes later, Westhills Stadium had something to celebrate after Pacific FC striker Marcus Haber headed home a free kick by Victor Blasco.
The game was wide open at that point, with both teams producing chances. In the 64th minute, Petrasso almost had his second goal of the game but ended up hitting the crossbar instead. In the 75th minute, Matthew Baldisimo skied a shot from just six yards out that could have given Pacific FC the lead.
Pacific was soon granted another opportunity. In the 8oth minute, Haber was brought down inside the box and then stepped up and scored the penalty to give Pacific the lead. Meanwhile, Baldisimo’s misery continued as the Pacific FC midfielder was sent off in the 89th minute.
As a result, Pacific FC had to work hard during the seven minutes of extra time to secure its first win for the Purple Wall.
“You know, we got the crowd behind us,” Haber said after the game. “It is like having an extra player on the pitch when you got 5,000 to 6,000 behind you.”