Pacific FC unable to take advantage of a strong start as York 9 rides second-half wave to victory

Pacific FC took on York 9 in a pivotal midweek clash, with the Ontario-based side taking home all 3 points as they rode a second-half surge to lead them to victory. 

In a crucial midweek clash in the Canadian Premier League, Pacific FC took on York 9 at Langford’s Westhills Stadium, with both teams looking to close the gap between them and the team to catch, Forge FC, as they chase a pivotal berth in the inaugural CPL Final. After Cavalry and FC Edmonton kicked off with the Al Classico an hour earlier, this game was the dessert for a fine course of Canadian soccer on the day, as both matches carried signifcant playoff implications. 

And after a strong first half push from Pacific, York would come out strong in the second, capitalizing on a pair of Hendrik Starostzick mistakes to take this one, downing Pacific with a pair of second-half goals. After a tough late-summer patch, a 2-0 result from home was a near-perfect result for the Nines, as they now head back to York full of confidence as they now prepare to take on Valour. 

“The goals didn’t really want to happen today. I felt good on the bench, I felt we were in the game and we did a lot of things,” Pacific FC coach Michael Silberbauer said after the game. “And then that one chance in the second half got them on top and they get a little bit more energy. From that point on it got a little bit more chaotic but we still managed to to create chances and I felt we had enough to get a result so I’m not too unhappy, but obviously it’s also not the result we want.”

Despite a good start from both teams, the games first shot on target came all the way in the 21st minute, as David Norman Jr struck the ball from 30 yards out, but his curled strike lacked conviction, as it would fall comfortably into the hands of Nathan Ingham. 

Pacific did well to win a corner in the 31st minute, and they nearly scored off their ensuing set-piece attempt, as winger Victor Blasco stood up to take it. The creative Spaniard delivered a nice floating cross towards the back post, where it found the perfect man in CPL Golden Boot leader Terran Campbell, but the big striker’s header would sail comfortably into the hands of Ingham. 

They would continue to ramp up the pressure, as a 35th minute Zach Verhoven cross from well outside the box met the outstretched leg of defender Lukas McNaughton as he streaked towards the back post, but the centre back’s acrobatic effort would stay out, as he hit the outside of the goal with his attempt. On the resulting goal kick, York nearly broke the other way and scored the opener, but a dangerous wide cross was met by an equally as impressive stretch from Blake Smith, who denied York a free chance at the back post, as he managed to clear the ball out the box with his effort. 

Speaking of Verhoven, he had another strong game on the wing for Pacific, as he continues to grab the attention of the rest of the league with his performances on the Island. With Pacific attacking with a 4-3-3 that built things up nicely through the middle, Verhoven and fellow winger Blasco had some freedom to take full-backs on 1v1 when they received the ball, either through careful midfield play or pinpoint diagonals from the back. With Terran Campbell opening up space through the defensive attention he collects, as well as David Norman Jr calming the build-up through the middle, it gave a chance for the Surrey-born Verhoven to shine on the evening. 

UBC Product Verhoven continues to shine (July 13th, 2019, Keveren Guillou)

Pacific would continue to put York under pressure for the rest of the half, and they came close in the 45th minute, as Blasco did well to dance through York’s defensive line with the ball. He found some space to box to shoot, and he did just that, firing a strong effort towards goal, but Ingham stood strong, parrying the shot away from goal, keeping his team in it right before the stroke of half time. 

It was a tight first half, with both teams creating good chances, but Pacific would ultimately create the bulk of the best opportunities. York found themselves in the clear a few times in the first 25 minutes, catching Pacific in possession with their full-backs way up the pitch, but they were wasteful with their shots, sending them well wide, keeping Pacific goalkeeper Mark Village well-rested. 

But despite that, York would find the first chance of the second stanza, as midfield Joseph Di Chiara found some space from 30 yards out. He struck the ball well with his right foot, putting great pace onto a rising shot, but it was just unable to find the target, as the ball would skim helplessly just past the post. 

York would soon be rewarded for their improved offensive play, as they would open the scoring in the 65th minute. A cross from out on the right side was met by the head of Rodrigo Gattas, who did well to direct his header towards Village, but Village was unable to corral it, however, parrying out a juicy rebound right in front of goal. York striker Simon Adjei would be quickest to react on the chance, catching Pacific defender Hendrik Starostzik asleep after the stop, as he would pounce on the loose rebound to give York the lead. 

It was the only way they were going to beat Pacific on the night, as Michael Silberbauer’s side defended nicely throughout the first 60, keeping a compact 4-4-2, with two banks of 4 dropping deep when York had the ball. With Campbell and Matthew Baldisimo pressing high, it often meant that they would stifle York attacks before they could get deep into their half, either through smart tackles and interceptions, or through fouls near the half-line.

They were not without weaknesses, however, as they were prone to wide set-pieces and quick counters, so it was no surprise to see the first goal come after a free-kick style cross from out wide. After Village did well to save the first strike, Pacific fell asleep defensively, as his team was unable to help out their keeper when he needed it, leaving him hung to dry as York opened the score.

“Yeah, of course we have to help him, you know,” Starosztik said post-match. “This is a team. Everybody has to help everyone. So yeah, of course. I think he could save to spoil, but if we send a little extra help and maybe we come and can shoot the ball away.”

Down but not out, Pacific would mount a surge of pressure to try and tie up the game. First, it was through Zach Verhoven, who would hit the side of the post as he shot from a tight angle in the 65th minute, before Marcus Haber came close in the 72nd, sending a strong header just over the bar, after Kadin Chung did well to put the ball on a platter for the hulking target man to nod towards goal.  

But York would double their lead in the 83rd minute, as Adjei would complete his brace, picking Starostztik’s pocket deep in Pacific’s half before beating another defender and slotting home to give York a commanding lead late in the game. It was a well-crafted press from Adjei, as he would catch Starosztik asleep on the ball, and just like that, York had exposed two key Pacific weaknesses en route to a big result.

And from there on in, York would cruise to the finish line, picking up their first victory since late July, putting an end to a 5 match winless run. After a tough derby loss on Sunday against Forge, they did an incredible job to pick themselves up, travel cross-country and snatch all 3 points against a surging Pacific side, who were undefeated in the last 4 games, as well as in 6 of their last 7 matches (3 wins, 3 draws) in CPL action. 

Against a Pacific team currently playing clean and crisp attacking football en route to those results, York was happy to play spoiler away from home, as manager Jim Brennan did a good job to set-up his team to pounce if the opportunity presented itself. It did, and they capitalized, so score it up as a job well done for York.

“We’re a team that wants to play (nice) football as well,” Brennan said after the game. “But we knew today that they were probably gonna have that little bit more possession at home, and we had to be very good defensively, I thought our shape was good, we dealt with everything that was going on and we took our opportunities today.”

For Pacific, it was a frustrating result for them, as they were the better team after the first half, but they were just unable to convert their chances on the evening. In a 0-0 game, it becomes a case of who blinks first, and in this case, it was Pacific, as York would capitalize when the big opportunities came up in the second half. Despite that, Silberbauer remained optimistic on his team’s performance, and if they continue to build on this solid foundation, Pacific will be a team to watch in 2020.

“It was not that we didn’t have the chances,” Silberbauer finished. “It was the the end product that was missing. And as long as it’s like that, I will not be be screaming.”

Up Next: Pacific FC vs FC Edmonton, Saturday, September 14th, 2019, 12:00 PST (Westhills Stadium, Langford)

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