‘Proving he belongs’: Youngsters Campbell, Attardo lead the way at IG Field

WINNIPEG – “Young” can be a funny way to describe a player in the Canadian Premier League.

The new Canadian pro circuit has opened doors for many first-year pros that may not be all that young, but their professional careers are. But in Pacific FC’s 2-1 win over Valour FC, it was the ‘young’ competitors that stood out.

It all started with the CPL’s second-most juvenile player, 17-year-old Valour striker Tyler Attardo.

Making his first career start, the Winnipegger headed home a Diego Gutierrez cross for his first professional goal. At 17 years, 9 months and 11 days old, Attardo became the youngest goalscorer in Canadian Premier League history so far.

“Right now it doesn’t mean anything at all if we don’t win so we have to pick it up next game and get a result,” Attardo said, referencing the goals that cancelled out his first-half marker.

The match-winner came from another youngster, 20-year-old Pacific forward Terran Campbell, via a dipping shot outside the Valour box in the 67th minute.

“I was able to find a little space on the shoulder of the opponent, took (the ball) down and I was able to find the back of the net,” Campbell said while describing his second goal of the season on the OneSoccer post-match show.

Campbell also set up Pacific’s opener. A well-weighted cross found a wide-open Victor Blasco at the back post in the 37th minute. Blasco, 24, is into his second full season as a pro.

“They both did amazing,” Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer said of Campbell and Blasco’s play. “But there were also other young players stepping up and overall it was a really good team performance.”

Valour FC's Jordan Murrell and Pacific FC's Tarran Campbell battle for possession. (CPL).
Valour FC’s Jordan Murrell and Pacific FC’s Tarran Campbell battle for possession. (CPL).

As for Attardo, a few eyebrows were raised when the lanky teenager was signed out of nowhere by Rob Gale, only because most hadn’t seen him play. Local coaches rave about the Open Trialist’s pace and the raw ability that could garner potential for a long professional career. But still, Attardo knew he would have to prove himself.

“This was my first pro contract so nobody had seen me play anywhere, nobody knew who I was,” Attardo said. “It’s a little extra pressure that but I just focus on playing my game and helping the team.”

While he has made substitute appearances, this first start had the feel of a real introduction to Tyler Attardo the pro footballer, who also happens to be in high school. A couple early runs where he easily outpaces his opposition got the crowd on its feet, fueling the young forward’s confidence for more.

“He’s proving to himself he belongs here, developing his game, he came on and made an impact today,” head coach Rob Gale said in a post-match press conference.

With Pacific FC ending an eight-match winless run leaving IG Field on a high, Valour was left for a third consecutive match (including the Canadian Championship) frustrated with more points slipping away.

“I’m fed up of talking about it,” said a frustrated Louis Beland-Goyette when the Valour midfielder was asked how he felt his team played. Fed up, maybe, in seeing a team put together positive stretches but not see the whole 90 minutes through?

“I feel like it’s different this time because it’s just one defeat too many and we have to go with a different mindset next game.”

And before the frustration, there was confusion. A missed mark that led to Pacific’s opening goal, and a substitution that was cancelled and left Valour with ten men on the pitch in the leadup to the match-winning goal.

Glenn Muenkat had entered the game for the injured Diego Gutierrez, before being sent back to the bench.

“I don’t know the explanation, unfortunately, but it cost us,” Gale said.

The victory in Winnipeg was the first road win for Pacific. They play their next four matches at home, starting Sunday against FC Edmonton (6:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. PT/OneSoccer). Valour FC visits HFX Wanderers on Wednesday, June 26 (6:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. AT/OneSoccer).