In two years at Pacific FC, Zach Verhoven produced his fair share of memorable moments. His three goals and four assists with the club don't even tell the full story of his 31 appearances; the Surrey, B.C. native was one of the CPL's most dynamic attacking players, especially in several impactful appearances off the bench on Vancouver Island. Now, though, the 22-year-old begins a new chapter of his young career. After moving on from Pacific in late 2020, he took his services to Atlético Ottawa, looking for a change. He only started two of the Tridents' 10 matches at the Island Games, and although he was happy to contribute as a super-sub, the time was perhaps right for Verhoven to move.

RELATED READING: 8 impactful late pre-season signings from CPL history

"My decision had nothing to do with the club; for me, it was just a personal decision, it was where my head was at," Verhoven told "I felt I needed a fresh start, a new change, and I felt very comfortable at (Pacific). Part of me didn't want to leave because I have so many great relationships there, and I owe a lot to that club for giving me my first professional opportunity." All of Verhoven's career to date has been in his home province; after coming through the Vancouver Whitecaps academy, he played out a successful tenure at the University of British Columbia – from whom Pacific FC picked him in the first-ever CPL-U SPORTS Draft, ninth overall. So then, why Ottawa? Apparently, Verhoven was impressed by what he saw from the club's first season in PEI, especially after they'd put their squad together so quickly. "They didn't have as much time to prepare for the Island Games and I still thought they did very well," Verhoven said. "Keeping their core, adding these new pieces we added, it looked like an exciting group to join." He added: "The history of Atlético was another reason; the pre-season trip, never being in Europe before, this is my first time, so what better place to be especially during the COVID times. I was excited to join this team, and I've been very happy with my decision." Indeed, Ottawa's pre-season trip to Spain to train in the facilities of parent club Atlético de Madrid has been a major draw for players. Now several weeks into it, Verhoven is still pinching himself occasionally. "The weather's been great, on the good days it's been beautiful," he said. "On the first day we were in Segovia to train at those facilities, and you look off the field and there's just beautiful mountains and views, it's been amazing. I think just to get away as a team has helped us a lot to grow as a group, which will help us going into the season."

RELATED READING: CPL off-season roster tracker: Who’s in and who’s out for 2021?

The club has since moved on from Segovia, now sequestered near the Spanish capital of Madrid at Alcalá de Henares. By the end of it all, Verhoven is confident Ottawa will be one of the most cohesive units in the CPL, having spent so much time together. He can attest to the power of a team-wide bonding trip; Pacific's pre-season visits to Tofino on the coast of Vancouver Island certainly helped bring their squad together in past years. "A club with a lot of new faces, I think getting away can really help bring the team together," he said. "In our case, we've gotten to know each other as well off the pitch because we're in the hotels together; maybe if we were in Ontario we would all go back to our own places, but here we're getting to know each other very well. I think it's just building that team chemistry." On the pitch, things are coming together as well; plenty of questions still face Atlético Ottawa, who has announced eight new faces (with more to come) to replace the 13 players who left after 2020. As someone who has shown he can have an impact at the CPL level, Verhoven could find his way into a larger role with his new club. In terms of how exactly Mista might plan to use him, Verhoven said that he's not yet sure. He played at right fullback on several occasions for Pacific, but he explained that he's a little more comfortable in an attacking role on the wing. "I mean, it's good to be versatile," Verhoven offered. "For me, I want to be on the field so however I can help the team, if it's winger or right-back, I'll do whatever I can to help the club win. Not too sure exactly where I'll fit in but happy to just be out there." Regardless of where exactly he fits in, though, Verhoven is sure to be a major part of the club's plans.

Continue reading...