Pacific FC is the only Canadian Premier League team with a third goalkeeper on their roster, and it’s not a stretch to suggest 17-year-old Emil Gazdov, who only joined the Tridents last week, sits at the bottom of the club’s goalkeeping depth chart.
But even though he’s behind Nolan Wirth (who made 12 CPL appearances in 2019) and newcomer Callum Irving (who spent last season with the Ottawa Fury), Gazdov doesn’t find his first professional environment as the youngest player on the squad an isolating experience.
“My goal is to get games,” Gazdov told CanPL.ca. “It’s up to the coaches. If I can get better, I don’t see why not.
“There are two fantastic ‘keepers that can help me, too.”
Gazdov, who has a year left of high school to complete, was brought to PFC’s pre-season training camp in early March. Tabbed as one of the top goalkeeping talents in the country by club CEO Rob Friend, the youngster garnered interest from the Vancouver Island club as early as last year.
“It was back in October, (then-interim coach) James Merriman texted me and we got to talking,” Gazdov recalled. “He was telling me about a new coach, which ended up being (Pa-Modou) Kah, and said they were looking at rebuilding the team with a younger ‘keeper.
“They had some options but they wanted me to come out. I think I surpassed their expectations a bit in those first sessions in March.”
RELATED READING: Pacific’s Lukas MacNaughton on CPL return: Games could look a little different
Gazdov spent several years in the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program, working and rubbing shoulders with a large swath of current Pacific players and staff. He previously played for Mountain United FC in the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League, before joining the Whitecaps where he trained with current Pacific goalkeeper coach Mark Village.
Village, Kah and Merriman liked what they saw in the B.C. native.
“When you see him this young, though, you’re impressed,” Kah told CanPL.ca. “He’s a big kid, he’s stone cold. Nothing phases him – even when he makes mistakes.
“His ceiling is very high as a 17-year-old and in the couple of months he’s been here, you’ve seen the development.”
Kah himself was impressed by Gazdov’s dedication to the team, especially after COVID-19 forced the closure of training camp in March and players into self-isolation. Gazdov stayed with the club, rather than returning to his family in Vancouver.
“He could have easily gone home but that shows you how much he’s put in to want to develop,” Kah stated.
“He’s staying with his teammates because none of our players traveled so he wanted to be part of the group. He’s integrated well.”
Whether Gazdov can “get games” is another matter. A truncated, single-site 2020 CPL season is expected, but how short is the question – fewer games mean more important games, leaving coaches with little room to experiment with the squad and give chances to younger players
But, as we know, Pacific have proven they “trust the kids” more than any other CPL club, and Gazdov takes inspiration from other teenage CPLers who impressed in Year 1. Tyler Attardo, Prince Amanda and teammate Noah Verhoeven come to mind.
“It just goes to show that age doesn’t matter. Especially going into this situation, it’s a good confidence booster,” he said.
“It keeps you hoping – there are chances to be had.”