Pacific FC and Forge FC, who meet Wednesday at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, used similar templates when constructing their Canadian Premier League rosters.
Both clubs aided their young Canadian talent with a veteran Canadian presence. For Forge FC, it is their captain and former Toronto FC and Montreal Impact MLS pro Kyle Bekker, an 18-time Canada-capped midfielder. The 28-year-old Bekker hit the crossbar as Forge FC (0-1-1) lost 2-1 last weekend to the HFX Wanderers before a capacity crowd of 6,200 in Halifax.
Pacific FC, however, draws a break Wednesday with Bekker sitting out the first game of a two-game suspension.
While the season-ending injury in training camp to 56-time Canada capped former MLS and Bundesliga attacking-defender Marcel de Jong put paid to half of Pacific FC’s veteran Canadian plan, six-foot-two captain Marcus Haber has carried the torch. The 27-time Canada-capped striker has a CPL-leading eight shots but has yet to score for Pacific FC (1-1). The nine-season European pro had four gold-plated opportunities in the first half of the 2-1 loss to Valour FC of Winnipeg last week at Westhills Stadium, including two posts hit in succession.
“It’s just a matter of time before Marcus puts one in,” said Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer.
The general feeling is that there was a lot of Canadian talent languishing in the academy programs of the three Canadian MLS teams (Canadian players were considered imports in the MLS, even on Canadian teams, up to 2017) and in the second and third divisions of Europe. The rationale for the formation of the CPL was that all these players needed to develop faster was a place to play pro soccer regularly in Canada.
Seven imports are allowed per CPL team, only five on the field at any time, but they are having their moments as Colombian Luis Alberto Perea scored the winner for Halifax against Forge FC. But so too having their moments are young Canadians such as Kadell Thomas, the 22-year-old who has scored both Forge FC goals this season, and who will need to be closely watched by Pacific FC.
It should be a competitive affair in Hamilton. Parity, hard to come by in sports leagues, appears to have been achieved from the opening kick in the CPL.
Five of the first six games in league history have been decided by only one goal and the other game has been a tie. While that might not be wholly unusual in soccer, because it is a low-scoring sport, it is important in another sense. None of the seven founding teams in Canada’s long-awaited domestic pro league seemed to have a real gauge during training camps about the talent assembled in the other camps. It appears the level is about equal, no doubt much to the relief of the league.
Fresh off the road victory over Pacific FC in Langford, Valour FC (1-1) played its first home game only to get nicked 2-1 by visiting FC Edmonton (1-0) before 9,699 fans at Investors Group Field.
Cavalry FC of Calgary played its first game last weekend and defeated York9 from Toronto (0-1-1) by a 2-1 count. What would any Canadian outdoor sport be without a springtime blizzard, which is exactly what the capacity crowd of 6,000 got at Spruce Meadows.
Pacific FC will continue its road trip Sunday as the guest when FC Edmonton opens at home at Clarke Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Pacific FC back line, severely compromised in the 2-1 loss to Valour FC, will regain some of its strength as defender Lukas MacNaughton returns from a one-game suspension due to a red card. Centreback Hendrik Starostzik from Germany, who scored the first goal in Pacific FC history in the 1-0 opening victory over the HFX Wanderers, was injured and did not play against Valour and is listed as questionable for Wednesday.
CORNER KICKS: Vancouver-raised, Saudi U-19 player Ahmed Alghamdi, who made his pro debut against Valour FC, has been signed by Pacific FC and will join the team full time in June after he finishes Grade 12 at St. George’s School.