Michael Silberbauer of Pacific FC was the first foreign coach hired in the Canadian Premier League and today became the first coach dismissed by his club in the history of the league.
“It’s never an easy decision. But this is a statement that this team expects better,” said Pacific FC general manager Rob Friend, also CEO and co-owner of the club.
PFC is 4-8-5 in the fall portion of the CPL’s inaugural season, sitting sixth among the seven teams, after going 3-5-2 in the spring portion in a three-way tie for fourth place.
“We want to win and not be comfortable,” said Friend.
“We want results. We want to win championships. It’s about direction.”
Friend didn’t put all the blame on Silberbauer, a former professional player from Denmark.
“This is not easy and the players need to take ownership, too,” said Friend, who had 32 caps for Canada and played pro in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1860 Munich.
“This is a challenging coaching job in a new league, and also culturally [for Silberbauer], and we had a young team that suffered a lot of injuries. Considering we only came into being 16 months ago, there was a lot accomplished this year and a lot to be proud of, too.”
Silberbauer played in the top leagues of Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland with FC Copenhagen, FC Utrecht and BSC Young Boys and has played Champions League and UEFA Cup matches. The native of Stovring made his senior international debut for Denmark in 2002 against Scotland. He was a controversial omission from the 2010 Danish World Cup team, but was named to the team for the 2012 Euros and finished with 25 caps.
Silberbauer was the top assistant coach at FC Lucerne in the top Swiss league when he was hired by Pacific FC for the inaugural CPL season. The 38-year-old moved to the Island with his girlfriend and their three-year-old daughter, and have another child on the way.
“We will take a little time to figure out what we want to do,” said Silberbauer.
He was gracious in accepting the team’s coaching decision and labelled his leaving PFC a “mutual agreement.”
“The club was looking to win more games. I would have liked to, also, of course,” said Silberbauer.
“We wanted to grow young talent from B.C. and we’ve done that with the most minutes played in the league by players 21 and under. I fulfilled that assignment. I would have liked to have won more games, but I thought those results would show later. But after I talked with [team management], I thought it better to step down and agreed to do that. I wish PFC nothing but the best.”
Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman of Nanaimo, who spent seven seasons coaching in the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy program, will take over as interim head coach for today’s final game of the season against Valour FC of Winnipeg at 3:30 p.m. at Westhills Stadium.
“James Merriman is passionate about soccer on the Island and integral to our club,” said Friend.
Asked if Merriman is a candidate to become permanent head coach, Friend replied: “Everybody is in our sights in our hunt for a coach. It’s a big decision and we will take our time to make it.”
The PFC players, meanwhile, are intent on playing through all the off-field coaching distractions suddenly swirling around the team. They say they want to thank the fans today for sticking with the team through a tumultuous opening season.
“Through an up and down season, one thing has remained consistent, and that’s been the great support we’ve received from our fans,” said midfielder Ben Fisk.
“[Today] we want to go out and reward them with an entertaining game in front of a sold-out crowd at Westhills and end the season on a high.”
While the PFC lineup is youthful and promising, with a core group likely to return, player personnel changes are inevitable in pro sports and PFC realizes it needs more veteran dynamism and punch than it had this season.
“We will be looking for bigger and better players next year,” said Friend.
Pacific FC co-owner and president Josh Simpson, who came out of Juan de Fuca minor soccer to earn 43 caps for Canada and play pro in Europe, reflected on the long-awaited return of a domestic Canadian pro soccer league with the advent of the CPL intersecting with the possible rise of the national team.
“You saw what happened Tuesday at BMO Field [Canada’s stunning 2-0 upset victory over the United States]. We are working hard at PFC, and in the CPL, to help build the next crop of players for Canada,” said Simpson.