The past forty-eight hours have been a whirlwind for Noah Verhoeven.
In a season of firsts, the 19-year-old midfielder for Pacific FC has become the first Canadian Premier League product to receive an invitation to Canada’s men’s national team. On Thursday, Canada Soccer announced the Surrey, British Columbia native had been added to its Gold Cup pre-camp as a training player and would join the team in Los Angeles for the weekend.
“I came in on a 5 a.m. flight. Early flight,” Verhoeven told CanPL.ca while in between sessions. “As soon as I landed, it was off to meetings and training sessions.”
The former Fresno FC player got the news of his invite from assistant coach Mauro Biello “about two days ago,” according to Verhoeven.
“He just said he’d like me to come down and join the team and train with them, and we spoke about how it’s a good opportunity to be around the team, around the guys.”
So far, the former Vancouver Whitecaps academy product has made the most of it.
“Just from being around them for a day already, I’m looking at guys like (Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan) Osorio, for sure,” said Verhoeven. “We play a similar position, and he’s one of the smartest players on the team. Atiba (Hutchinson)’s so experienced. There’s so much I can learn from him. Guys like (Samuel) Piette, (Russell) Teibert … Will Johnson. In my position, I’m looking to learn as much as I can.”
Though brief—Verhoeven is there as an injury substitute and will return to Vancouver Island shortly—the invite marks the first step in a mandate the CPL set forth long before the league’s first-ever match: to grow and develop Canadian talent for the international stage.
“This is a well-deserved opportunity by Noah,” said Rob Friend, CEO and co-owner of Pacific FC. “We know of his abilities, so it’s a great gesture by John Herdman to include him into the National Team. Hopefully this is just the start for not only Noah, but a few of our other young Canadians.”
“You see that it’s not that far away,” Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer told CanPL.ca. “I hope that’s extra motivation for the other young players to work even harder.”
“It shows that the (national) coaches are watching the league,” said Verhoeven. “They see what’s going on; they’re watching our performances. I mean, the opportunity is there, and I think it’s just up to (us) players to make the most of it.”
Through seven starts with Pacific FC, Verhoeven leads his team in scoring chances created (11). Named the North American Soccer Reporters’ U-23 Player of the Week in May, he has connected on 80.1 percent of his passes thus far, including a curling cross in PFC’s home opener against HFX Wanderers FC that set up Hendrik Starostzik for the franchise’s first-ever goal.
“He finds pockets that some players don’t see,” Pacific striker Jose Hernandez told CanPL.ca.
“He has a very strong lower body,” added midfielder Victor Blasco. “His legs are very strong. He’s quick, he’s smart, he’s aggressive.”
Verhoeven is no stranger to wearing the red-and-white. The former Vancouver Whitecaps academy prospect debuted with Canada’s youth program at age 14 and most recently suited up for Canada in last year’s CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship. Verhoeven also played under Herdman in last year’s Toulon Tournament in Provence, France, where he scored the game-winner against Turkey.
“As soon as I came out here (to California), he caught me up tactically with what they’re doing,” Verhoeven told CanPL.ca. “I think his message is as clear as can be: he wants the best out of you, and it gives this kind of confidence to the player that you know what your expectations are when you go into games.”
For now, the 19-year-old is enjoying the chance to prove himself and catch up with some familiar faces.
“(Toronto FC midfielder) Noble Okello, I played with him in (CONCACAF) qualifiers in Florida, so it’s good to see him again,” said Verhoeven. “I haven’t played with (Bayern Munich’s) Alphonso (Davies) since (Whitecaps) Academy, so it’s great to see him again.”
There are other goals on the horizon. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics loom. So does the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, along with the 2026 World Cup and the chance to play on Canadian soil.
For now, Verhoeven’s focus is on the present.
“I think the best way to look towards the long-term events is to worry about what you’re doing in the moment,” he says. “Going to as many camps as I can, being with the national team as much as I can, but when I’m with (Pacific FC), working hard. Playing hard. And that’s what gets you into those national camps.”