Marcel de Jong debuts in Pacific FC draw

It’s a big country.

Just ask Pacific FC and the HFX Wanderers.

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The Canadian Premier League clubs completed a nation-crossing home-and-home set that spanned Pacific to Atlantic.

Pacific FC and HFX drew 1-1 Wednesday before 6,055 fans in Halifax after playing to a 1-1 draw last week at Westhills Stadium.

With 4,476 kilometres between Victoria and Halifax, this matchup constitutes the third-longest trip in the world between pro domestic league Premiership soccer clubs.

“There’s no hiding from it. It is a long trip,” said PFC head coach Michael Silberbauer, by phone from Nova Scotia, following the game.

“But the energy was very good for us today. We are getting better at travelling.”

You have to when you play sports in Canada.

Silberbauer is a 25-time capped former Danish international. You can fly from Copenhagen to Moscow and back in under the distance it takes to go just one way from Victoria to Halifax.

For the second time in as many weeks, Pacific FC (4-7-5 in the fall season) took the lead only to have HFX (2-7-8 in the fall) level.

Lukas MacNaughton headed home a long pass from the sideline for his second goal of the season for PFC at 13 minutes. But MacNaughton was called for a foul in the box at 27 minutes, with Luis Alberto Perea converting from the penalty spot for HFX.

Marcel de Jong, who played six seasons in Germany for FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga and also four seasons for Roda JC in the top-level Dutch Eredivisie, recorded a remarkable comeback from injury Wednesday by coming in for Pacific FC at 66 minutes. The tenaciously determined 56-cap former Canadian international returned to the pitch in game action for the first time since going down in training camp to a ruptured Achilles in mid-March. The 32-year-old played the last three seasons in the MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The defender showed his class by laying on some sublime passes up the field to the forwards to be named PFC’s man of the match.

“[De Jong] is such a smart passer and has exceptional football vision,” said Silberbauer.

Both teams pressed for victory in the second half.

“The boys tried hard and had chances,” said Silberbauer.

So did HFX, however, with a couple of close chances in the late going.

“You want to press but it has to be composed and controlled attacking that does not give away easy chances at the other end,” said Silberbauer.

With Cavalry FC of Calgary and Forge FC of Hamilton headed to the league final, the other teams in the league are playing out the string with only pride on the line.

PFC plays its final road game next Wednesday against FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium. The Pacific FC season concludes Oct. 19 against Valour FC of Winnipeg at Westhills Stadium.

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