Help arrives for young Pacific FC squad

Staro returns, and not a moment too soon, to shore up a Pacific FC back line that has been a makeshift shambles without him.

Import defender Hendrik Starostzik from Germany, better known among fans by his abbreviated nickname, is expected to play a larger role today when PFC plays a Canadian Premier League game in the Greater Toronto Area against York9.

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Starostzik, who was inserted in with 10 minutes remaining in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Forge FC at Westhills Stadium, had been out since injuring his ankle late in the opening game after scoring the first goal in franchise history in a 1-0 victory over the HFX Wanderers of Halifax.

“The tendonitis of the foot has been a roller-coaster for me over three months with good days and bad,” said Starostzik.

“It is the most mentally stressful thing I have experienced in my career. I will see now if I can go 45 minutes first, then 60, then 90. It’s a matter of building up.”

Things haven’t gone too well for PFC since Staro went down, at least on the pitch (3-5-2 spring season and 0-2 fall season). Management’s carefully-laid plans to have Starostzik and multiple-time Canada capped pros Marcel De Jong and Marcus Haber mentor the PFC roster of rising young pros fell apart with injuries that have kept the three veteran players on the sidelines for much of the inaugural CPL season.

Pacific FC’s thin backline was exposed in the 3-2 losses to Cavalry FC of Calgary and Forge of Hamilton — the top two teams from the spring season — which began PFC’s fall season the past two weeks at Westhills. The feisty, young PFC squad played well in portions of each of those games, especially Victor Blasco, Terran Campbell and Ben Fisk on offence. But teams are not going to win many fixtures in soccer by allowing three goals per game.

It won’t hurt to have the six-foot-two centre-back Starostzik return to the middle of the back line. The 27-year-old has played professionally in Germany since 2010, including with Dynamo Dresden of 2-Bundesliga, Germany’s second division, in 2016-17. He came to PFC from Hallescher FC of the Bundesliga’s 3-Liga. It would be the equivalent of a German pro hockey team adding an AHL/ECHL pro veteran from Canada on the blue line. The addition would certainly be welcome and make an impact.

“I told our group you can’t defend like boys anymore at this level,” Starostzik said. “You have to defend like men and be aggressive on the ball. This is like the third division in Germany, which is very good. We have shown we are good enough at this level to score one or two goals every game. Now we need clean sheets defensively.”

Also expected back is Lukas MacNaughton from injury and Panamanian-import midfielder Alex Gonzalez from a two-game red-card suspension. The infusion of veteran stability couldn’t come at a more needed time for PFC, which faces a team with notable results in its last two games.

York9 held Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer to a 2-2 tie last week in the third round of the Canadian Championship with the Impact only salvaging the draw with a goal in injury time. York9 (2-3-5 spring and 1-1 fall), named after the nine municipalities in York Region, then halted FC Edmonton’s four-game CPL winning streak with a 2-1 victory Sunday.

Meanwhile, reliable PFC midfielder and former Canada U-17 player Matthew Baldisimo, a 21-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps prospect, will not play tonight due to a suspension because of an accumulation of yellow cards.

Pacific FC returns to Westhills Stadium on Saturday to face HFX Wanderers of Halifax.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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