Seven matches into their inaugural season, Pacific FC are still searching. Not just for a path to the top half of the Canadian Premier League table – which proves increasingly difficult – but for a winning formula. For a spark of chemistry. For the best iteration of themselves. But what might that look like on the pitch? At the three-quarter mark of Pacific’s Spring campaign, the West Coast club sits sixth in CPL standings with five points and a goal differential of -5. Their road loss against York9 FC on June 15th drops them to three losses and two draws in their last five league matches. No starting XI for PFC has been the same. Blame injuries, if you will. Hendrik Starostzik’s bruised tendon during Week 1 has created a game of musical chairs at the centre-back spot, and the club was without its most potent striker, Marcus Haber, for two of its first four matches – a two-game streak during which Pacific went scoreless and managed just three shots on goal. Head coach Michael Silberbauer has experimented with his formations. The Danish coach has most consistently fielded a 4-2-3-1, but has also fielded a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, and just about everything but the Mighty Ducks' fabled 'Flying V.' Say what you will of the first-time head coach’s tactics, but he cannot be accused of not trying. Starostzik’s looming return to the pitch, whenever it comes, simplifies things. In his opening match – his only for PFC – the 28-year-old from Marburg, Germany was the league’s best performer through 90 minutes. Not only did Starostzik manage to lead Pacific in touches (97), clearances (9), and interceptions (3), he also completed 93.5% of his passes, won both of his tackles, and scored the game-winning goal – the franchise’s first. If he manages a fraction of the same output through the rest of his season, it will be a successful one. Haber’s recent form has inspired confidence, too: two goals in his last four matches, including one on the road at Spruce Meadows against the league’s stingiest defence in Cavalry FC. The Vancouver native is the only Pacific FC player to score more than once this season and is now averaging a shade under a goal every three games. Despite just 30 minutes of action on the road against York9FC -- a shuffling of the deck for Silberbauer, perhaps -- he was Pacific’s most threatening attacker, creating a pair of chances with Zach Verhoven. But how best to construct the rest of the lineup? Here’s what the numbers suggest:
Forward and attacking midfielders

With Haber in the striker’s position, Pacific FC has seen the most success with a trio of Jose Hernandez, Noah Verhoeven, and Ben Fisk behind him. It was this attacking foursome that potted a pair of unanswered goals in the first half against York9 FC on May 18th. Fisk found Haber on a corner kick in the 28th minute, and Hernandez teed up Fisk for his first goal of the season 14 minutes later. It was the most productive 45 minutes PFC has seen. Credit Verhoeven’s and Fisk’s playmaking for allowing all of this to work. The 20-year-old Verhoeven creates over 1.5 scoring chances per 90 minutes, and Fisk averages nearly as many (1.35). Both numbers are good enough to put them in the club’s top five at the category. Despite fewer minutes than his peers, Hernandez has proven himself worthy of a larger role. In his first-ever start for the club, the 19-year-old Edmonton native scored Pacific’s lone goal against Winnipeg Valour FC, then played a solid 74 minutes in his next, a hard-fought scoreless draw against his hometown club.
Defensive midfielders

One of only two Pacific players to create more scoring chances per 90 minutes than Verhoeven? Newcomer Alexander Gonzalez. The sample size is small – Gonzalez has played just three matches for the Vancouver Island club – but over his three starts, the Panamanian import has led PFC in chances created and has averaged more touches (78.1) than any of his peers. Both Matthew Baldisimo and Alessandro Hojabrpour have provided more consistent defence than Gonzalez thus far, but with a dearth of PFC goals, Silberbauer may well benefit more from the playmaking. Who to start alongside Gonzalez is more of a toss-up. Baldisimo has been the more consistent starter, with eight starts through nine competitions, but there’s a case to be made for Hojabrpour: He leads all PFC’s defensive midfielders in percentage of tackles won, duels won, and clearances per 90 minutes. Hojabrpour completes a higher percentage of his passes (83.8%) than Baldisimo (81.2%), and he creates more scoring chances. But here, too, sample size is worth mentioning. Hojabrpour’s stats are based on 289 minutes played to Baldisimo’s 665. And counting in Baldisimo’s favour? The former Whitecaps Academy product is averaging over two interceptions per 90 minutes, a significantly higher rate than either Gonzalez or Hojabrpour. The back line is where things get interesting for Pacific FC. Check back to on Friday for Part 2.

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