As Pacific FC prepares for its inaugural match against HFX Wanderers FC this Sunday, the question of who will start between the posts remains a mystery.
However, for goalkeepers Mark Village, 27, and Nolan Wirth, 24, a strong sense of camaraderie is still blooming.
Both British Columbia products, the Abbotsford-raised Village and Comox-born Wirth, have known each other for a number of years, since Village played with the former Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 and Wirth was a young goalkeeper in the Whitecaps’ residency program. Both met under goalkeeper coach Raegyn Hall.
“[Hall] came from the Whitecaps residency program, so he kind of mentioned [Nolan’s] name a few times, and [Wirth] came in to train in the offseason … when he was at Oregon State,” Village, who spent three years with the MLS reserve team and most recently played for FC Cincinnati, recalled to CanPL.ca.
“Being part of the residency program, I would have to come back and train, get my hours in during the summer,” Wirth, who played with Didier Drogba at Phoenix Rising FC in 2017, added.
Then 21 years old and four years Village’s junior, Wirth remembers his teammate for his composure in those workouts under Hall.
“[Mark’s] one of the nicest guys on the team, and a great shot-stopper. Smart, very mature. Just a great guy all around,” Wirth said.
Village remembers his fellow keeper for his sense of humour — a reputation Wirth has acquired with Pacific FC.
“He’s a very funny guy,” Village revealed. “He’s hard not to get along with.”
Armchair coaches will likely have Village as their presumptive starter, based on his size (6’2″ to Wirth’s 6’0″) and added experience. The senior keeper is quick to point out Wirth’s strengths, though.
“[Nolan’s] a very powerful guy,” Village said. “His jumping ability and his power and explosive saves: That’s one thing that’s his strength. And he utilizes it very well.”
Wirth credits Village’s maturity on the pitch as his one of his greatest assets. Whatever happens on the field, the former Beaver says, “he just gets on with it so quickly. And that’s something that I would like to learn to be better [at]. Because I take those two, three seconds to go ‘ugh!’ and kinda dwell on it. But he does it instantaneously.”
Pacific FC will count on Norwegian-born Marius Røvde to have both keepers in shape for the season opener. The new arrival joined the team as goalkeeping coach on April 9th, having spent eight years in the MLS as goalkeepers’ coach at Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Minnesota United FC.
“We’ve both worked with [Røvde] in the past, when he was at Whitecaps, so we know him,” says Wirth. “He delivers a good strike — a good ball. And his drills are very old-school, which I like. We both do.”
“He has a lot of experience to share,” Village added. “He likes his goalkeepers to be some of the fittest players on the field.”
Speculation of whoever’s starting the historic match at Westhills Stadium on April 28th aside, the keepers are adamant that their relationship will remain the same.
“In some teams, you’ll get a bit of a toxic environment, because obviously, you’re both competing for the same spot,” Village said. “But that hasn’t been the case with Nolan and I. We’ve just kind of put our heads down and done the work and had a few laughs along the way.
“Whatever happens on the field, happens on the field. It stays on the field. And we’re very good friends off the field,” Wirth concluded.