VANCOUVER ISLAND – Pacific FC said they were confident entering Monday’s match.
Never mind if the skeptics remained, nor the fact that Cavalry FC had conceded just four goals all season. Never mind if the gap between the two teams in the standings was wide enough to fit Stewie the Starfish and the much-maligned hydro pole that looms above Westhills Stadium.
In soccer – as in all things – there is reality, and there is belief. Sometimes, though, that belief can manifest reality.
Credit 17-year-old Ahmed Alghamdi for providing the early inspiration. In his first-ever start for the Langford-based club, the Vancouver native found the back of the net against Cavalry’s Niko Giantsopoulos in the 48th minute. It has been quite the summer for the central midfielder; just two weeks earlier, Alghamdi attended his final high school classes at St. George’s School.
Credit goalkeeper Nolan Wirth, Pacific FC’s Man of the Match. In the Comox, British Columbia native’s second start, he made seven saves—including a goal line scramble to keep Pacific ahead late in the second half.
Credit Victor Blasco. (It had to be Blasco, didn’t it?)
On the Spanish forward’s 25th birthday, the Mallorca native further cemented his status as one of the Canadian Premier League’s most dangerous strikers by potting the game-winner. With his third goal in his last four matches, Blasco leads all Pacific strikers at the end of the Spring campaign.
“This is the start for us, and now we’re going to work (our) hardest,” Blasco told reporters after the match.
“A win is a good feeling, but this year is all about building the team and making the connections, making the chemistry between players,” added forward Issey Nakajima-Farran, who widened the lead to 3-1 with a free kick in the final minute of stoppage time.
“The first half of the season, that’s really what it was for us.”
The Spring season did not unfold as Pacific FC had planned. Injuries are to be blamed, for certain. A team does not lose its marquee signing, Marcel de Jong, nor his most promising replacement, Hendrik Starostzik, nor its captain, Marcus Haber, without expecting a degree of regression.
“We’ve played with so many injuries throughout the season, and even though we have so many injuries with key players, we just keep playing the way we want to play,” Blasco noted.
Inconsistency, too, has been a common pest for the Vancouver Island club. A team can only concede so many own goals, or squander so many one-goal leads, and still expect to win games. A convincing 3-1 result against Cavalry FC goes a long way towards burying those ghosts.
There are caveats, of course. Some will suggest that Cavalry had little to play for, having already secured the Spring season title. Some will point to the Cavs’ roster changes on July 1st—a markedly different one than its usual look.
“We went out and had a solid performance,” Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer told reporters after the match. “The boys did an excellent job today, and now we have to recover and we have to build on this next time. We have to do it again, and again, and again. That’s how we get better.”
It was Wirth, the ‘keeper, who had the final word of the day:
“It’s Canada’s birthday, and we went out there and gave Canada a present … not the Calgary part of Canada, though.”