VICTORIA – It happened in the first two minutes of play against Cavalry FC, in the second leg of a Canadian Championship series in which Pacific FC were already down two goals.
A relatively-unthreatening set piece curled in by Cavalry midfielder Julian Buscher took a wild bounce after a whiffed clearance by Pacific FC captain Marcus Haber, and instead of rolling into the arms of goalkeeper Mark Village, it found the inside of the left post … and the back of the net.
An own goal par for the course for Pacific’s season thus far.
Despite high expectations entering the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural season, the Vancouver Island club’s showing through five regular season matches – alongside an early exit from Canadian Championship contention – have cast the first few seeds of doubt.
Halfway through the Spring portion of the 2019 CPL season, Pacific FC are 1-2-2 (1-4-2, including CanChamp results) with a pair of scoreless outings and a goal differential of -3. Of greater concern, Michael Silberbauer’s side hasn’t managed a win since their 1-0 home opener against HFX Wanderers FC, a match played nearly a month ago.
“It’s been a heavy schedule,” Silberbauer told CanPL.ca after flying back from Calgary. “We’re going to take our time now to try to correct some of the things that haven’t been working and try to see if we can also be a little bit better in the things that have been working.”
There have been issues on the attacking end – thought to be a strength before the season began – and difficulty in maintaining a clean sheet. Haber’s own goal was the second against Pacific FC in as many matches; just days before, against York9 FC, defender Ryan McCurdy ended up on the wrong side of the score sheet after a corner kick went in off his head.
“It’s small things. But in a league that’s this tight, details are important,” Silberbauer said.
Pacific defender Hendrik Starostzik added: “We have to build consistency. And this is the most important thing. There is no opponent who is much better than us, but some opponents have (had) better structure, better discipline with and against the ball.”
The doomsday clock has not yet struck twelve. Half of the Spring calendar remains, and three of Pacific’s next four matches come against opponents they have either beaten (HFX Wanderers) or drawn (York9, FC Edmonton). Marcus Haber has now scored in each of his last two matches, and his chemistry with midfielder Ben Fisk has improved with each game.
As Silberbauer stresses, chemistry can often be the difference-maker in a league this close.
“They need to get to know each other. That’s not something that takes one game or two games or three games. We see that with Calgary,” Silberbauer explained, referencing the undefeated side led by Tommy Wheeldon Jr., built on the back of the Calgary Foothills team. “Some of their boys have played with each other a little bit longer, and they’re taking full advantage of that.”
“(We’ve had) a few unlucky results that maybe could’ve gone our way,” offered Ben Fisk, the lone player to start in all seven of Pacific’s matches.
“All we need to do, I think, is maintain the same speed and intensity we go in to start the game [with],” Pacific forward Jose Hernandez added. “Our team is still working and getting stronger, so I think it’s only a matter of time.”
Speaking of getting stronger, a return to the pitch looms for defensive stalwart Starostzik, after he suffered a bruised tendon during the club’s home opener against HFX Wanderers FC – a match for which he provided the game-winning goal.
Starostzik says he’s eyeing a June 15th trip to York Lions Stadium as a potential date for his return to the pitch.
“I can walk now pain-free,” Starostzik told CanPL.ca. “I hope I can, next week, go on the pitch and do some light stuff. And we will see how the tendon reacts.”