Pacific FC wins the navy derby

PACIFIC FC  3
HFX WANDERERS 1

The only thing missing Saturday at Westhills Stadium was the Village People.

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But Elton John was present.

In the Navy was the theme of the afternoon on a well-timed Military Appreciation Day as the franchises from Canada’s two far-flung naval-base communities met in a Canadian Premier League soccer match.

The national bookend derby represents the third-longest distance between franchises in any domestic Premiership pro soccer leagues in the world.

Pacific FC defeated the HFX Wanderers of Halifax, captained by Trinidad and Tobago-capped Elton John, 3-1.

Even the two commanding base officers got into the swing of things. There was a taped halftime Skype exchange on the stadium’s big screen between CFB Esquimalt base commander Capt. (N) Sam Sader and CFB Halifax base commander Capt. (N) David Mazur, with each taking off their navy uniform tops to reveal their CPL teams’ respective jerseys.

On the field, league goals co-leader Terran Campbell scored twice for PFC in the second half before 2,757 enthusiastic fans. The rising 20-year-old is tied with Tristan Borges of Hamilton-based Forge FC for the CPL lead in goals with seven. “It feels great. But without my teammates, I couldn’t get the ball. And I'm grateful to them,” Campbell said.

A Victor Blasco blast, perfectly curled into the left side of the net on a free kick from just outside the box, gave PFC the lead at nine minutes, before HFX levelled off a horrendously guarded corner kick at 14 minutes in which Matthew Arnone was allowed to score an uncontested header for Halifax’s first road goal of the season. It highlighted a PFC problem with letdowns after goals. It was the fourth time after PFC’s previous six goals that the opposition had replied within five minutes.

The first-half featured scoring chances at both ends, with PFC goalkeeper Nolan Wirth, a Comox product out of NCAA Pac-12 Oregon State, robbing Arnone with a leaping save. Blasco, who has five goals on the season, then rattled the crossbar at the other end while PFC teammate Zach Verhoven came close three times.

Campbell scored the winner at 61 minutes and Verhoven found Campbell for the insurance goal in injury time to clinch it. This time, there were no opposition goals in response.

“Our defensive structure was really good today,” Campbell said.

Another continuing PFC storyline — injuries to key players —again haunted PFC when starters Blasco, Kadin Chung and German-import Hendrik Starostzik went off hurt before the end of the first half.

Following the game, Blasco at least said he was fine. The 25-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps prospect said felt his hamstring twinge and he didn’t want to risk aggravating it into something serious. Blasco’s teammates did well enough without him in the second half.

“When we’re on, we are a very good team and fun to watch,” said the native of Mallorca, Spain, a former Barcelona academy player. “And our fans get energized and that’s massive for us.”

PFC is 1-3 in the fall season after going 3-5-2 in the spring.

“We’ve seen flashes here and there, but that may have been our best combined 90 minutes,” PFC coach Michael Silberbauer said.

“It was not a must-win for us. It was more a must-show performance.” About his CPL Golden Boot candidate, Silberbauer said: “Terran [Campbell] is a handful.”

He got no argument from HFX, which is also 1-3 in the fall and 3-5-2 in spring.

“We’re in a bad moment,” HFX coach Stephen Hart said. “All credit to PFC. They were patient and took their chances when they got them and that’s the name of the game,” added the former Canadian national team coach.

PFC now has three consecutive road games, beginning July 31 against Valour FC at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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