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Pacific FC rides purple wave to first-ever victory

Their stadium might not have been completely ready. But Pacific FC certainly was, and that’s what mattered most.
Ben Fisk leads the celebration as Pacific FC players and fans celebrate Hendrik Starostzik's first goal in team history Sunday at Westhills Stadium.

Their stadium might not have been completely ready.

But Pacific FC certainly was, and that’s what mattered most.

The Canadian Premier League soccer club played and won its first game in franchise history with a 1-0 decision Sunday over the visiting HFX Wanderers of Halifax before 5,154 fans at a mid-renovation Westhills Stadium.

Centre-back Hendrik Starostzik scored the first goal in Pacific FC history when he headed in the winner at 21 minutes off a corner kick by Noah Verhoeven.

“That [scoring the first goal in club history] was not the biggest thing. The biggest thing was to win the game,” said the impressive import from Germany.

It was the first victory by a team in CPL history after the league’s inaugural game Saturday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton ended in a 1-1 draw between host Forge FC and visiting York9 from the Greater Toronto Area before more than 17,000 fans.

Each CPL team is allowed seven imports and Pacific FC looks to have found a good one in Starostzik, who used his six-foot-two frame well, and was equally outstanding in clearing the ball on defence.

“The ball came in so fast [from the Verhoeven corner kick] that there was not much work for me to put it into the net,” said Starostzik, of the bang-bang scoring play.

“The level of play is good.”

Starostzik likened the CPL to the German Third Division, in which he played, but then added that it might even be better and compared it to League 1 in England, which is the English Third Division.

Pacific FC had to sweat out the final moments of the game as they went down to 10 men at 71 minutes on Lukas MacNaughton’s second yellow card of the game, which equaled a red card for ejection.

HFX had some chances to equalize with the man advantage, including hitting the crossbar, but goalkeeper Mark Village hung on for the clean sheet.

“We relieved the pressure, kept our composure, and everybody held their lines,” said Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer, a former European Premiership pro and 25-time capped Danish international.

Several of these players have played at high levels but were still impressed by the crowd support.

“The atmosphere was great and I hope it is for all home games,” said Starostzik.

Former European Premiership pro and Canada-capped Marcus Haber wore the captain’s arm band in the opener.

“The atmosphere was right up there and as good as it gets for 5,000 fans and gave us extra energy,” he said.

Added bench-boss Silberbauer: “It was exciting to see so much purple in the stands and the boys wanted to put on a good show, and I thought we played good football.”

The game involved the third-longest distance travelled in world soccer between domestic pro Premiership teams. But HFX head coach Stephen Hart, former national-team head coach, refused to blame that for his team’s loss.

“The travel is not an excuse. That is what life in Canada is. Obviously, it had some effect. But you have to deal with it.”

The HFX players went over after the game to salute a small knot of their flag-waving supporters.

“You will find Haligonians everywhere,” said Hart.

But they were drowned out in the sea of purple, especially by the lusty and loud Pacific FC supporters groups that cheered, sang, waved flags and banged drums in the east-side bleachers behind the goal.

Pacific FC plays its second game on Wednesday night at Westhills against Valour FC, in what will be the first game in franchise history for the Winnipeg-based club.

CORNER KICKS: Among those in attendance Sunday were CPL commissioner David Clanachan and Canadian national team head coach John Herdman.