Quoting more recent history, pundits are saying Island-based Pacific FC needs to pull off a Liverpool tonight in Calgary.
But for Michael Silberbauer, it’s more like a Utrecht. The former Danish international, when playing for the Dutch club side, fell behind 2-0 to Celtic at Parkhead before defeating the Scottish club 4-0 at home to win their two-game set in a European League qualifier.
“It can be done,” said Silberbauer, now head coach of Pacific FC. “We have nothing to lose.”
Pacific FC is behind 2-0 to Cavalry FC heading into the second leg tonight at Spruce Meadows of their Canadian Championship set and facing a daunting task to stay alive in this nation’s version of the FA Cup.
It won’t be easy. Undefeated Cavalry FC, with five consecutive wins to start, have become the early darlings of the inaugural Canadian Premier League season.
Pacific FC found that out last week as Cavalry rode to a 2-0 victory at Westhills Stadium in the opening leg.
While other CPL teams basically began from scratch, continuity has been the key to Cavalry’s success. The Calgary Foothills were a powerhouse in the amateur United Soccer League Premier Development League (now USL 2).
When the CPL was announced, the owners of the Foothills folded the PDL team into the new pro league (while retaining a Foothills farm team in USL 2).
Moving up to Cavalry FC from the Foothills were head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Victoria-raised assistant coach and technical director Martin Nash.
“Seven players from our Foothills PDL team made the Cavalry FC roster and that has allowed us to have immediate chemistry,” said Nash, a former Vancouver Whitecaps pro who was capped 38 times for Canada, including in 10 World Cup qualifying games.
“The thing that has helped us the most is that we had a core. It’s easier when you have a culture already built-in,” added the former St. Michaels University school basketball and soccer star.
The PFC-Cavalry winner will advance to the second round against CPL club Forge FC of Hamilton on June 4 and June 12. Forge FC has drawn a first-round bye. The winner of that second-round set will meet the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer in a home-and-home July 10 and July 24.
Travelling with PFC is recently-signed former Panama U-20 midfielder Alexander Gonzalez, who has CONCACAF Champions League (where the Voyageurs Cup champion advances) experience with Sporting San Miguelito and Plaza Amador. The latter was the 24-year-old’s most recent club in 2018-19. Each CPL team is allowed seven imports.
Gonzalez speaks only Spanish but made a statement through the PFC club: “The first day that I arrived the boys treated me really well. You can see that they are good guys, hard workers, a young team that include Victor [Blasco] and Ben [Fisk] who are helping me as they speak Spanish. They have given me a warm welcome and I hope to pay them back by playing good soccer. My team was eliminated a week ago. I hope to take full advantage to use my experience and to finish as champions with Pacific FC.”
Silberbauer is considering starting Gonzalez against Cavalry: “This might be a good time to throw him straight into the fire.”