The inaugural Canadian Premier League regular season wraps up today. It’s naturally been a season of firsts. Some more welcome than others. From a managerial point of view, one firsts none of the seven head coaches were wanting to achieve was to be the first boss to be sacked from his post.
Unfortunately for Pacific FC’s Michael Silberbauer it is his name that will be in the records books moving forward as he became the CPL’s first managerial casualty on Friday.
Silberbauer was in charge of Pacific for a total of 29 matches, including the club’s two Canadian Championship defeats against Cavalry FC. He managed only seven wins in that time and 28 out of a total of 81 points, just 34.5%. But he also had to deal with a squad ravaged by injuries, especially to key senior players like Marcel de Jong and Marcus Haber, and was forced to call up younger, inexperienced players a lot more than he likely expected to.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the 38-year-old Dane in his first head coaching job, and questions were sure to be raised about his future in the offseason. Pacific FC pulled the trigger early though. So why now? Pacific FC co-owner Rob Friend didn’t mince his words.
“This is a performance industry,” Friend told AFTN at Pacific FC training on Friday. “We expect to win and we sort of saw a downward trend of our performance. Players being flat, seemingly uninspired. And us as an ownership group, we have to look hard at what are we doing? What’s missing?
“Ultimately I think we do have the talent out there and we can beat any team in this league, and consistently we weren’t. So we have to look hard at what’s the reason. We wanted a bit of a shake up. We want to win [our last game]. That’s why the decision was today versus after the season.”
Friend paid tribute to the work that Silberbauer had put in to building the first ever Pacific FC squad. A roster with an eye to the future and packed with younger talent. It’s been an identity that has excited many, and the good news for them is that things are not going to be changing in that regard at least.
“Now it’s about a new direction,” Friend added. “A fresh direction. Michael’s done a phenomenal job to build this squad of 23 players. I think we play some of the most attractive football. We have the youngest team, and we’re going to stick to that philosophy, but we want a young team that wins championships.
“We know we can do that and we’ve got to get the best out of these players and we’ve all got to take ownership on that and be better and expect better because it’s been an average performance on the field this season and to us, that’s unacceptable. So we shake it up a little and let’s move forward.”
What that moving forward will look like and with whom at the helm is now the big question facing the Pacific FC ownership group.
The search for a new head coach starts now, but it won’t be rushed. How long it takes is of far less importance to the club than making sure they get the right man for the job both in the present and with a view to Pacific’s long term future.
“We’ve got to take our time,” Friend told us. “We need to be consistent. We don’t want to be that club that’s moving through coaches. This season was always going to be a difficult one whoever took the helm. You see with Cavalry, they’ve got consistency and they’ve been building it for a couple of years. We rolled in, threw a squad together, built a philosophy around young players, and expected to win.
“That’s almost an impossible task, so it’s not entirely fair for Michael, but I think it’s ultimately where we’re going with this club. [Who is] the gaffer is a massive decision and he needs to take that leadership role on and embrace this philosophy of this club, so we’re going to take our time. I think there’ll be a lot of names thrown forward, but it’s got to be the absolute right decision and we’ve got to take our time with that.”
There certainly won’t be any shortage of interest, but Pacific know they can’t afford to get this next hire wrong.
The ideal candidate would be someone with experience as a head coach. someone who understands all that playing in a nationwide Canadian league entails, and someone who also understands the make up of Canadian players. Alan Koch would have been the obvious choice but he has just been appointed head coach of Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the USL.
Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but Silberbauer’s appointment was a surprise and was always going to be a risk. He had played at a high level in Europe but had only been an assistant on the managerial side. He had no knowledge of the Canadian game or what the new league here would mean in terms of travel and all the other quirks of football in a country as expansive as Canada.
Not ideal and certainly not something that will be repeated.
“Certainly it’s a challenge coming from Europe,” Friend admitted. “We understand with the travel, with the game schedule, that understanding that certainly helps. You’ve seen in MLS. A lot of high resume foreign coaches haven’t done a great job in MLS for those reasons. With the travel, the culture of the players. North American player mentality, character, is different from Europe.
“So it’s challenging. We took the risk bringing in Michael. People say he was inexperienced but he had four years as an assistant coach at a top level. We wanted to be a bit different. Was that the wrong decision? I think we built a damn good squad and we play some attractive football. with a young team.
“When we’re looking for that new coach, that certainly players a factor and what does that look like? We’re certainly going to take that into account when we’re looking at our next coach because we are ‘for Canadians by Canadians’, but it’s really about these players and who’s going to develop these players and move them on and develop them into winners. So who’s that guy? Does he have to come from Canada? Not necessarily, but I’m sure it does help, but there’s limited names out there.”
You can hear our full nine minute chat with Rob Friend about the Silberbauer sacking and lots of other Pacific and CPL topics on the next AFTN Soccer Show podcast.