Midfielder Noah Verhoeven of Pacific FC is far from intimidated by his call-up to be a practice player for the Canadian national team in Los Angeles ahead of its CONCACAF Gold Cup opener June 15 against Martinique.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said the 19-year-old native of Surrey.
Verhoeven has played with most of the national team players before as a member of the Canadian U-20 and U-23 squads.
“It’s been a smooth transition because I grew up with most of these guys, including Alphonso [Davies], in the Whitecaps Academy and the U-levels of the Canada program,” he said.
Canada head coach John Herdman is familiar with Verhoeven from the national team program and seems to have him pencilled in for possible future senior national-team service.
“I’ve worked with John before and so am highly acquainted with his style tactically and I know what he’s looking for,” said the native of Surrey.
Despite his age, Verhoeven has started all six Canadian Premier League games for Island-based Pacific FC, and the two Voyageurs Cup Canadian Championship fixtures, and has shown well.
“This is a well-deserved opportunity by Noah,” said PFC’s general manager and CEO Rob Friend, who played for Canada 23 times.
“We know of his abilities, so it’s a great gesture by John Herdman to include him into the national team. Hopefully, this is just the start for not only Noah, but a few of our other young Canadians.”
Verhoeven is part of the youngest roster in the inaugural season of the CPL, and Pacific FC’s growing pains have been evident in starting 1-3-2 in league play and 0-2 in Voyageurs Cup play.
“We have a lot of younger pros who are growing into their roles,” said Verhoeven.
“We have not gotten the results we’ve wanted but it’s only a matter of time. We’ve had 15 to 20 minute lapses in games that have cost us. We are learning and will address that. We are really looking forward to the second half of the season. We have great fans and a compact stadium [Westhills] that gives off a real European atmosphere.”
The CPL, says Verhoeven, was the missing link for young Canadian players.
“It’s a bridge to the next pro level [Europe or MLS] for Canadian players with potential,” he said.
From there, maybe to the national team. And perhaps next time not just for practice, but for real.