VANCOUVER ISLAND – As outcomes go, it was about as unpredictable as they come. Put it up there with Pacific FC centre-back Hendrik Starostzik being the franchise’s first-ever goalscorer.
Noah Verhoeven at… left-back? The game-deciding goal from Terran Cam—wait, nope. Victor Bla—nope. Kadin Chung? A clean sheet without Starostzik or Blake Smith in the starting XI?
One might have expected a certain amount of roster shakeup entering Saturday’s match at home to FC Edmonton, Pacific’s second of the week and a game they won 1-0. Particularly, perhaps, after a 2-0 loss to York9 FC. Players need rest. Especially if, like with Starostzik and Marcus Haber, there are past injuries to consider; or, as in the case of minutes-leader Smith, opportunities for rest are fleeting.
Still, who would have thought?
It was a gutsy performance from Pacific.
The Eddies’ size — always a challenge — loomed large, but the Vancouver Island club held firm.
“Edmonton makes it hard on you. They are big boys, and they keep coming at you,” Pacific head coach Michael Silberbauer told reporters post-match.
Former Victoria Highlander Ryan McCurdy played a mostly-solid 90 minutes in Starostzik’s stead, matching the Eddies’ 6’3″ striker Tomi Ameobi capably. Apart from a pass to Pacific ‘keeper Mark Village that missed its mark and conceded a 38th-minute corner kick, the Northern Ireland native held his own, completing 82.9% of his 41 passes, winning three of his four tackles, and adding seven clearances.
“I felt Ryan and Lukas (MacNaughton) handled it very well today,” Silberbauer said of his centre-back pairing. “(McCurdy) came in, he was maybe thrown in a little bit too early (in the season).
“He played in Calgary, and he played excellent, and he played excellent again today,” Silberbauer added.
Mark Village earned Pacific its first clean sheet since August 17th against York9 FC — his two-save performance was highlighted by a clutch 68th-minute save to preserve Pacific’s lead on Saturday.
“The guys in front of me played very well,” Village told reporters post-match. “Noah (Verhoeven) kept all those guys on the wing at bay, and Ryan McCurdy kept Tomi Ameobi very busy.”
It has not always been an easy season for Village. Pacific’s starting goalkeeper through nearly every match of the Spring season, the 27-year-old was replaced by Nolan Wirth in the final game of the Spring calendar and promptly sat out the next seven contests, before regaining his spot against the Nine Stripes.
“That’s going to happen; there’s going to be some inconsistent dips throughout the season,” Pacific co-owner Rob Friend told CanPL.ca. “He’s got a fantastic character, and just a guy that’s great to have in this club. Now that we’re on a nice little run here, he’s gaining confidence, and again, he’s getting those games and those consistent minutes that he needs.”
Silberbauer’s lineup on Saturday was an unexpected one, particularly with Verhoeven — typically an indispensable part of Pacific’s midfield — deployed at fullback.
Perhaps the only one not surprised by Verhoeven’s shift to left-back? The 20-year-old himself. This afternoon, he led Pacific with 71 touches, to go along with two interceptions.
“I felt comfortable there,” Verhoeven told reporters after the match. “I think one of my qualities is I can whip a ball in . . . it does give me a different dimension in going forward.”
Speaking of going forward, Pacific — now third in the CPL following Saturday’s triumph — will head out on the road for their next match. They’ll take on another Alberta side, Spring champions Cavalry FC, as they visit Spruce Meadows next Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. MT, on OneSoccer).
FC Edmonton supporters show up in numbers
Nearly two dozen Eddies supporters — and a vocal, flag-waving contingent at that — filled the southeast corner of Westhills Stadium, enough to prompt FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus to venture into the stands and shake their hands ahead of the match.
“It was awesome. It really shows that he appreciates what we do,” said Dallas Walker, a supporter of FC Edmonton since 2011. The trip to Westhills Stadium marked Walker’s third away day of the Canadian Premier League season, after visits to Calgary and Winnipeg.
“I just love the energy and passion that the fans bring,” he told CanPL.ca.