As Open Trials end, Merriman believes friendships among CPL coaches now become rivalries

VICTORIA – The Canadian Premier League’s #GotGame Open Trials have officially wrapped following yet another impressive showing in the seventh and final stop, Vancouver Island, and for Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman, the focus now shifts away from unearthing talent to actually bringing those identified players on board.

Over the last two months, the CPL’s collective coaching staffs have converged in seven different cities across Canada, conducting the tryouts, swapping notes, sharing their takes, and whittling down individual lists of more than 220 trialists from each stop to further assess talent.

But that collective approach now ends, and for Merriman, friendships forged over football and frequent flyer miles must now be put aside – players can only sign for one team, after all.

“The staff amongst the CPL has a good connection and the coaches all have good relationships, which is going to help build the league – especially at the start – so that part has been excellent,” Merriman told, when asked about the change in tone as the coaches began considerations toward the final watch list of trialists.

“You’re starting to see (the competitiveness) a little bit more now because obviously we’re building out our teams and, especially when you’re looking at players and talking about players in the Open Trials, you can definitely see (the rivalries) grow. But it’s all in good spirits. We all get on really well. It’s not a problem, it’s natural. This is sport.”

While the CPL’s coaches have had to strike balance between openness of ideas for the benefit of narrowing down individual city player pools, not every opinion has been disclosed.

It’s no stretch to imagine that the coaches have kept some information closer to the chest as the trialists impress in-game.

For Merriman, the last stop in Victoria provided he and Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer to take a first-hand look at some of the players who have previously expressed interest in playing for their club.

The results left them pretty pleased.

“We didn’t know exactly how we were going to see (local players) and assess them,” Merriman explained. “It’s always hard with video footage alone. When they were reaching out to us, we thought this might be the best way to see them live, and for Michael to see them live, which has been difficult when he’s still in Switzerland. Some of them have shown well.”

Before the league invites trialists to preseason, the coaches will converge once more in Vancouver to watch the U SPORTS National Championship, held at the University of British Colombia (Nov. 8-11). It’s a chance to scout out even more young talent ahead of the inaugural CPL-U SPORTS Draft (Nov. 12) and for Merriman, it’s also an opportunity to look outside of the areas he’s already scouted.

“I’m familiar with the west coast teams, UBC, UVic, TRU, Trinity, I’ve seen all those teams play, and I’ve seen SFU play as well, but I haven’t seen the east coast teams as much, other than some video,” Merriman said. “So, just seeing it, being there live, and connecting with some of those coaches as well, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really good week.”