Marcus Haber leads Pacific FC to win over Winnipeg's Valour FC

Marcus Haber has played a lot of soccer, including in the Scottish Premiership and 27 times for Canada, but this was novel even for him.

“That’s the first time I’ve scored on my first touch,” said the Pacific FC striker.

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Haber headed home a Victor Blasco free kick on the initial play after being subbed in at 61 minutes to tie the Canadian Premier League game 1-1 against Valour FC of Winnipeg. Haber later hammered home the winner from the penalty spot at 81 minutes, after being taken down in the box, as PFC escaped with a 2-1 victory to the delight of 4,381 fans.

Among the crowd was Premier John Horgan, as part of the opening ceremony of the revamped Westhills Stadium. Wags in the press box noted it was Horgan’s government that missed a grand soccer opportunity for the province by nixing B.C. Place being part of the 2026 World Cup. At least for now, as seven years is a long time. But the premier seemed happy to be at Westhills on Saturday, donning a PFC scarf and cap, and even photo bombing the pre-game PFC starting XI picture.

“Langford just gets it done,” said Horgan, about the dual opening of the Westhills Stadium improvements, and the adjacent Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground.

A feature of Westhills now is the grandstand behind the West goal, a rarity in Canadian soccer, which brings a European feel to the venue.

“The back stand is beautiful. The stadium in amazing,” said PFC head coach Michael Silberbauer.

Everything is relative, of course, but that’s still saying something since Silberbauer has played in the top Dutch pro league and in Euro 2012 for his native Denmark.

“It was a special day and a special moment,” said Haber.

“We could feel the electricity in the stadium and could feel the crowd behind us. We wanted to put on a good show for the fans.”

Michael Petrasso had given Valour FC, owned by the Blue Bombers of the CFL, the lead at 59 minutes with his sixth goal in 10 games.

“They scored first, but we showed high morale in coming back,” said Silberbauer.

The hero of the piece concurred.

“We stayed focused. We showed our character,” said Haber, about the victory rally, of which he was the integral part.

“I was just trying to come in and make a difference.”

Mission accomplished.

It was the 30-year-old’s third game back after missing seven games with a knee injury.

“I’ve not played 90 minutes in a while, but I’m close, and I want to contribute any way I can,” said Haber.

His work ethic has impressed the PFC bench boss.

“Marcus has worked his butt off in training,” said Silberbauer.

PFC is 3-4-1 in the fall season (after going 3-5-2 in the spring), but is an encouraging 3-1-1 in its last five games.

Valour FC was 3-7 in the CPL spring basement and is 2-4-3 in the fall.

Valour coach Rob Gale had a different view of Saturday’s game: “I thought we were the better team today. It was a very good road performance. We were dominant. I feel like the game was taken away from us [by calls].”

Pacific FC crosses the Rockies for a game Wednesday in Calgary against the CPL spring-champion and fall-leading Cavalry FC, a team that has beaten the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS this season in Canadian Championship play.

CORNER KICKS: Valour FC derives its name from the three Victoria Cross recipients in the First World War who lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg, which has since been renamed Valour Road.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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