VICTORIA, BC — On the final day of the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, Victoria-based Pacific FC beat Valour FC of Winnipeg 2-0 in front of 5,103 visitors at Westhills Stadium.
The final weekend of the Canadian Premier League set off with a big surprise. Pacific FC fired its head coach, Michael Silberbauer, a day before the season finale.
“These decisions are never easy,” Pacific FC CEO Rob Friend said after the game. “I’ve used the term ‘shaking it up’ and sometimes that’s what this needs. We wanted to show, ‘look everyone’s job is on the line here.’
”We don’t want to be a comfortable club. We always want to be pushing.”
Assistant coach James Merriman led the team against Valour FC, and the coaching change had an immediate impact on player motivation.
“We wanted to respect him and his departure with a good performance,” captain Ben Fisk said. “We reiterated [Friend’s] comments in the locker room, that he issued a challenge and a bit of a threat, that nobodies jobs are safe.”
Just 12 minutes into the match, Pacific FC opened the scoring. Terran Campbell picked out Zach Verhoven, the midfielder chipping the ball in full sprint over keeper Tyson Farago to make it 1-0.
“First instinct was that I should go for the chip,” Verhoven said. “That is what I did and it went in, so that was great.”
Verhoeven could have scored a second goal just four minutes after making it 1-0. This time, however, the midfielder failed to hit the target.
In the 43rd minute, Pacific had the next chance. Ben Fisk was given to much room on the edge of the box. This time, goalkeeper Farago kept the shot out of the net.
The one-goal lead in the first half reflected the balance of power on the field. Pacific used the full width of the field to play a type of pro-active soccer that was at times lacking in their previous five games without winning.
Pacific FC kept up the pressure and in the 60th minute made it 2-0. Former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ben Fisk put away a cross by Blake Smith with a close-range effort.
“It has been to few and far between that we record wins like that this season,” Fisk said.
Three minutes later, Fisk handed the captain’s armband to Marcel de Jong.
The fullback joined Pacific FC from the Whitecaps during the winter but missed almost the entire season with an Achilles injury sustained at the club’s training camp in the spring. On Saturday, he was finally able to make his home debut for Pacific FC.
There was still 20 minutes to go, and de Jong wanted more than just a feel-good return to the pitch. In the 88th and 89th minutes he created two chances to score his club’s third goal.
“I wish I could have scored one,” De Jong said after the game. “It would have been the dream scenario, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. But the story isn’t about me, it is about the team anyhow.”
And a 2-0 win was Pacific FC’s version of a perfect end to an up-and-down debut season.