PACIFIC FC 2
VALOUR FC 0
Rays of sunshine broke through the clouds, literally and figuratively, Saturday afternoon at Westhills Stadium.
Pacific FC concluded a tumultuous 24 hours, after the firing Friday of head coach Michael Silberbauer, with a 2-0 victory over Valour FC of Winnipeg before 5,103 fans to close out the inaugural Canadian Premier League soccer season.
“It was a tough couple of days and I told the players to play for the fans,” said James Merriman, who stepped up from assistant coach to interim head coach for the day.
“It was tough on me because I have been with Michael every day. But we haven’t been good enough this season and I asked the players to look in the mirror and to finish with our heads held high.”
Zach Verhoven scored one of the best goals of the year, off a clever back heel from Terran Campbell, to give PFC a first-half lead that was added to in the second half by man-of-the-match Ben Fisk.
“[The firing] was upsetting for the group,” Verhoven said.
“Michael had been really good to all of us. But we had to focus on today and we did that. This is a pro environment and you have to be your best at all times.”
PFC finished 5-8-5 in the fall portion of the CPL’s inaugural season, to place fourth among the seven teams, after going 3-5-2 in the spring portion in a three-way tie for fourth place.
“I came here to win a [league] trophy and we didn’t come close to that,” said Canada-capped Fisk.
“Today was a chance to right a lot of wrongs on the year. I told the guys to do it for the fans. And out of respect to Michael, it showed he did build something special this year.”
David Norman Jr. of PFC is signed for next season by David Beckham’s Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami, and said he took away much from his time in the CPL.
“It helped me take the needed next step in my career,” said the son of 1986 Canadian World Cup player David Norman.
It was quite a swirl on and off the pitch.
“It [Silberbauer’s firing] was shocking yesterday,” Norman Jr said.
“But you have to be a pro about it. We showed that professionalism today.”
PFC defender Marcel de Jong has been through it all before. He was capped 56 times for Canada and played six seasons in Germany for FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga, four seasons for Roda JC in the top-level Dutch Eredivisie and three seasons in Major League Soccer for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“This is football and we have to be professionals,” he said.
De Jong, who recently returned from what was thought to be a season-ending ruptured Achilles, made his home debut off the bench Saturday and received a warm greeting from the crowd.
“I wish the season was a bit longer,” he said.
PFC general-manager Rob Friend, also CEO and co-owner of the club, said he got the response he wanted from his players Saturday.
“They looked like they were playing for their careers,” he said.
“That was kind of the reaction I was looking for,” added the 32-time Canada capped Friend, who played professionally in Germany with Borussia Moenchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1860 Munich.
“Everyone’s job is on the line. There was a clear reaction today from those who want to be here for the future.”