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VIDEO: Second-season version of Vancouver FC begins to take shape

‘Our goal is to really be the best team in the league,’ coach says

On Tuesday morning, Oct. 24, the second season of Vancouver FC was beginning to take shape on a practice field behind the home stadium of the Canadian Premier League pro soccer franchise in Langley’s Willoughby Community Park.

Head coach Afshin Ghotbi and his staff were putting 28 field players and five goalkeepers, a mix of players from the first season and potential additions to the team, through their paces.

They were divided into three teams to play what Ghotbi described as “tactical games.”

”I’m looking for players that have the intelligence to solve the puzzles and find ways that they can win certain tactical games,” Ghotbi told the Langley Advance Times.

“Just to see who has a football brain, or soccer brain, who has the IQ that I’m looking for.”

After Vancouver FC became the first side eliminated from Canadian Premier League playoff contention by losing to Cavalry in mid-September, they wound things up with a winning streak, downing the Valour, Wanderers and Pacific teams before losing their last game of the season to York United on Friday, Oct 6 at the Willoughby stadium.

“I think in the last 10 games, we were one of the better teams in the league,” Ghotbi said, “and maybe in the last six games, we were one of the best teams in the league.”

“I felt that not only were we dangerous for scoring goals, we were winning games. But also, we were out-possessing opponents, which is the type of football I want to play. I want to have a team that, every time we have the ball, we have an intention to score goals and come into danger areas. And at the same time, we have the defensive bite, to not give chances away, and not take goals.”

“Our goal is to really be the best team in the league next season,” Ghotbi declared.

“Can that be done in a year? I hope so.”

In their first year, the team started late, and was still adding players a month before the season opened.

Next year, Ghotbi wants a head start.

“We’re hoping to have a full team as soon as possible,” he remarked.

READ ALSO:VFC victory wasn’t in cards for last game of first season

It is the first experience of building a team from scratch for Ghotbi, who has held head and assistant coaching roles in the United Soccer League, Major League Soccer, the Persian Gulf Pro League, Thailand’s Thai League 1, Japan’s J1 League and the Chinese Super League, over a career that has spanned nearly four decades.

“Most of the teams I’ve joined have been established teams,” he recounted.

“I was with four different national teams [which have] 50- to 100-year histories, so it’s it’s been quite a different experience.”  

After his first season in Canada, Ghotbi, a self-described “global citizen,” who was born in Tehran and has a home in California, has come to appreciate the diversity of the Vancouver region and the Canadian way of thinking, describing it as “a completely different mindset” compared to the U.S.

“That took me a few months longer than I expected,” he recalled, “because when you come to Canada, everybody speaks English. You feel like you’re still in America, but you’re not.”

He places Canada roughly half-way between American and European attitudes.

Canadians, he thinks, are a little more “collective” in their attitude, more interested in ‘harmony” compared to the U.S. mentality, where “we think always to be number one, to be the best in everything we do.”

His team, he makes it clear, favours the American approach.

“In sports, you need to have a little bit of a little bit of that [U.S.] mentality, that you want to be the best, and to be number one, and to think a little bit bigger than yourself,” he added.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge phenom creates lifelong memories in first year of pro soccer

Ghotbi praised Vancouver FC fans, saying “every time I came to the stadium, and every time I saw them in training, I felt that I was at home.”

“When you see people stick with you through the worst of times when you’re losing game after game and they still come to the game, in rain or sun or in heat and in cold, I just get a sense that really we are in the right path of building a great football club.”

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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