James Merriman – Pacific FC Head Coach on Preparations for New Season

It’s almost time. Just two weeks remain of pre-season for the Canadian Premier League sides ready to take the field for the league’s fifth season.

James Merriman, head coach of Pacific FC, has seen a pretty consistent technical staff line with just the new addition of goalkeeping coach Daniel Ortiz who arrives with a wealth of experience training some of the best in La Masia, the academy for FC Barcelona in Spain.

The playing squad has seen some turnover, which happens in all teams across the league, but with a coaching staff on the same page, this pre-season has been one that was more prepared a decisive than in previous years. Merriman appears confident the club is headed in the right direction:

“We’ve been more prepared as a staff and an organisation, Daniel (Ortiz) has adapted really well into the team and we have had more preparation time for preseason so that part alone felt better and stronger coming into the new season.”

As a young league, players from abroad are beginning to take note and the scouting of clubs across the Canadian Premier League continues to grow and the reach goes wider. Pacific FC reaped the rewards of bringing Alejandro Diaz into the league, as well as the player himself.

For players coming into the league, they are often looking to find a new home and place to reach their potential rather than arriving for the big money move.  As Merriman explained:

“We always are looking for a player who needs a different environment which we had with (Alejandro) Diaz. I think we have that with Bradly Vliet as we feel he suits our way as a left back in our system. Ayman Sellouf also has high potential and maybe this change in environment, out of his comfort zone, can help him progress further (to mention two of them).”

With preseason coming to an end, friendlies have been set up and played and Pacific FC have managed some strong victories including a 3-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps 2. Players have been given the chance to get on the field and show they understand what they have been working towards.

“We’ve worked hard to create an identity and a style of play here at Pacific FC, we’ve used the friendlies to give players the chance to perform. We’ve had three friendlies and they have taught us a lot which we are happy with, but the real tests will come once the season starts.”

As they go into their final friendly of the preseason the squad seems to have fully been assembled, but I was keen to know if there was any more business to be done.

“We have one more big signing announced on Monday coming, we are very excited about, a player I have worked with in the pass and will be a massive addition to our team in terms of performance and impact but also in terms of in the locker room” said James Merriman.

Josh Heard has been named captain going into the season and even at the age of 28 is the oldest in this group. Pacific FC set themselves up to be a club which develops and gives young players a platform to go onto bigger things. For Merriman, Heard is the best person to lead this squad as captain.

“Josh ticks all the boxes from the outside to be captain – we’ve been fortunate enough to bring him back from to the Island with all his experience – for anyone who has spent time with him knows he has a great personality and is incredibly honest and authentic and he will be a great captain, he takes it naturally. He’s humble but competitive, he keeps the locker room and staff honest and shows up every day to work hard but enjoy it too.”

Amongst some of these players Heard is captaining includes one of Pacific FC’s biggest signing this preseason in Easton Ongaro. The Canadian striker arrives as a key acquisition who Pacific will hope can make an immediate impact after the lack of goals which occurred after Alejandro Diaz’s departure midway through last season.

“The thing that most impressed me about Easton is his mentality and professionalism. He comes here with a clear focus and we are 100% aligned with his goals and ours. His mentality has been strong, and we are excited for him this season.”

As well as new additions, there are a a number of players who have been part of this team even from the championship days.

“We have a core group from that 2021 team that won the championship. We have added players last year with expectation so high. We have a young group, but they have experience, Sean Young is going into his fourth season for example. We set high goals for a young group because we want to go out and win but also help develop these players and that is the environment which is going to help them to do so.”

Sean Young is an exciting local prospect who, at just 21 years of age, has already managed 60 professional appearances for his hometown side. Young is a solid and promising young central midfielder who Merriman is keen to improve and add an impact in the final third this season.

“Regardless of numbers, we challenge him to make a big impact as a box to box midfielder we know he is and the potential he has, He’s very young with a great physical profile and if he keeps up he won’t be here very long with us and that’s the goal for both him and us.”

First up for Pacific FC is a new derby with a home game against Vancouver FC. The expansion side now have a full roster so expectations can begin to be made but as a new side there is still the element of surprise.

“It’s difficult as we haven’t seen them play but we will prepare for how we think they will set up but we will be concentrating on ourselves and how we want to attack the game with the tone we want to set for the season.”

The wait is finally coming to an end, just two weeks until the Canadian Premier League is underway. For the club has a tight knit community around it who are becoming more involved every season with the team.

“This coming week we hope to feel the energy around the city and our hope is to fill the stadium for every home match. We are going into season five, we have a clear way of playing and a clear attacking style of football which the fans can get behind and hope to see a full Starlight Stadium.”

We will all be counting down the days and for fans of Canadian football, this young and exciting league is about to get back underway. As much as supporters may be excited, so too are the teams.

“The window is closing on preseason, we have one more friendly against the University of Washington, and the group feels good, the staff feels good, and we are ready and excited for the challenge of the new season.”

Saturday in Langford, the tridents bested the University of Washington by a final score of 3-2. Needless to say, confidence for the Vancouver Island outfit is high as they head into the new season.

(Image Credit: Pacific FC)

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