Merriman, Nash expect strong finale as Open Trials head to Vancouver Island

CALGARY – The Canadian Premier League’s #GotGame Open Trials have wrapped up in Calgary, and the league’s coaches and staff are off to Vancouver Island on Nov. 5-6 for the seventh and final stop on the cross-Canada tour.

A trip to the west coast rounds off the coast-to-coast tryouts, but for Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman, it also provides an opportunity to view local talent … without having to catch a long flight, first.

As Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer wraps up his tenure at Swiss outfit FC Luzern, Merriman has been deputized to attend the Open Trials in his stead, and has logged quite a few miles as he and the rest of the CPL’s head coaches gathered in each of the first six stops.

But on Vancouver Island, Merriman can finally just roll out of bed and head to work.

“I think that’s probably what we’re looking forward to the most – or I am, anyways,” Merriman told CanPL, with a laugh.

“We started in Halifax, all the way across the country, so we’re looking forward to being a little closer to home. There’s been a good buzz in the Vancouver Island area. Everyone’s excited to come out.”

Each of the six stops thus far have produced quality talent, whether in Quebec or Alberta, Ontario or in Winnipeg and Halifax. The one constant theme among the coaches has been that the standard of play has been quite high. But, can the trialists on Vancouver Island top the rest?

It’s possible, says Cavalry FC assistant Martin Nash, himself born on the Island and thus well-aware of the talent on offer, too.

“You never know with these trials – some cities you think will be strong aren’t, and some cities you don’t think will be strong actually are,” Nash told “It’ll be interesting to see the talent that signed up.”

Culturally, Vancouver Island stands alone in Canada, so one naturally wonders if the style of soccer differs as well. To that end, Merriman offered that he thinks players on the west coast have “an edge” to them.

Nash agreed, pointing out a number of recent goalkeepers that have come out of the Island to play professionally, as well as hard-working but creative players like Josh Simpson and Adam Straith, as examples of what Vancouver Island might have to offer.

“You don’t know really what to expect but they’ve a lot of players with flair and a lot of good, solid players,” Nash added.

“It’s a lot of old English towns, a lot of English expats that grew up with a soccer lifestyle. That’s the way my family was and a lot of families from Victoria were that way, so it’s deep-rooted in soccer. It’s the number one sport there, moreso than hockey in a lot of ways, so I expect there to be some good talent.”

CPL Commissioner David Clanachan expects anywhere from 10-20 trialists could receive invites for the league’s preseason camp, and with Merriman and Silberbauer hosting the final stop, they expect to see some familiar names, too.

“There’s been some players that are interested in the club and we’ve told them this might be the best route to get seen,” Merriman said, when asked if he has reviewed the list of trialists on Vancouver Island.

“The player list looks strong,” he added. “We’re hoping it’s the strongest.”