Pacific FC trims roster with eye on 2020

Pacific FC began its fall housecleaning by sweeping out seven players.

“We are sticking to our philosophy of keeping our young, core group,” said the club’s CEO and GM Rob Friend.

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But even at that, youthful Emile Legault and Jose Hernandez won’t get a curtain call.

The club announced it will not offer new contracts to goalkeeper Mark Village, defenders Legault, Hendrik Starostzik, Ryan McCurdy and winger Hernandez.

Defender Blake Smith and midfielder David Norman Jr. were on loan from Major League Soccer clubs with Smith returning to FC Cincinnati and Norman Jr. to the new Inter Miami FC franchise.

“These decisions are never easy,” said Friend.

He noted all the players moving on can say they were part of a ground breaking venture in the Canadian Premier League as part of the national pro circuit’s inaugural season.

“Each player has been integral to making history on the Island and in this country,” said Friend.

PFC (8-13-7 in 2019) will build around a youthful core that includes Kadin Chung, Terran Campbell, Ahmed Alghamdi, Matthew Baldisimo, Noah Verhoeven, Alessandro Hojabrpour and Zach Verhoven.

“These players have now had a full year of pro soccer and will grow off that,” said Friend.

PFC led the league by a wide margin in playing time for players U-21 and under. The issue, perhaps, was more the underperformance of the veteran pros the team signed.

“We need our veterans to step up next season,” said Friend.

“We expect a lot out of our veterans. They need to bring a great deal to the table. They need to be role models. It’s about culture and philosophy. We want to build a championship team here.”

There were extenuating circumstances in the form of major injuries to the two main veterans Pacific FC had brought in. Defender Marcel de Jong and striker Marcus Haber, who have 83 caps for Canada between them, missed vast stretches of the season to major injuries.

“Marcel de Jong is probably the best player in the CPL and is hungry and extremely motivated for next season,” said Friend, of the former Bundesliga and MLS pro, who suffered a ruptured Achilles in training camp, but fought back to return late in the season.

Friend said he expects de Jong and former Scottish Premiership player Haber to be healthy and play substantial roles next season.

“Marcus Haber’s body perhaps underestimated the volume of playing and travel involved in the CPL,” said Friend.

Friend said he expects to make signing announcements regarding new players over the next four months.

“The response has been overwhelming, both from international players, and Canadian pros wanting to return,” he said.

“They have seen the quality of the league in its first year and all teams are looking at making key new signings over the off-season and we are going to see even more of a boost in quality in the league next year.”

There is also the matter of hiring a new head coach after Michael Silberbauer was dismissed on the eve of the final game of the season.

Meanwhile, the CPL’s U Sports draft takes place Nov. 11 in Montreal with a lot of talk swirling around Canada West MVP Isaac Koch of the University of Victoria Vikes.

“Isaac will be in the mix,” said Friend.

“He had an outstanding season at UVic and we have watched him all season in Canada West.”

PFC scored when it drafted Zach Verhoven in the CPL’s inaugural U Sports draft held in the spring. PFC signed Verhoven to a pro contract and he did not return to the UBC Thunderbirds, despite having two seasons of U Sports eligibility remaining. Friend also pointed to former Victoria Highlanders PDL player Peter Schaale, who was drafted out of Cape Breton University and signed to a PDL contract by the HFX Wanderers of Halifax.

“We expect to see more success stories such as that out of the U Sports draft,” said Friend.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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