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Signing of the versatile Verhoven bolsters Atlético Ottawa’s options

Former Pacfic FC midfielder Zachary Verhoven, has been added to a growing list of impressive attacking players as the Atlético Ottawa team continues to take shape.

At just 22 years of age, Verhoven, a 2018 U-sports draft success, already has 33 appearances in the Canadian Premier League and some stand out performances to his name - including his game changing appearance off the bench against HFX Wanderers last season.

Despite Pacific FC coach Pa-Modou Kah announcing in October last year that Verhoven wouldn’t be joining the west-coast outlet for the 2021 season, it comes as no surprise that the Surrey, BC native has found himself a new side in the CPL.

With 3 goals and 3 assists, the versatile 22-year-old midfielder adds another dimension to the diverse options on Mista’s roster, with the University of British Columbia graduate able to fit in centrally, on the wings or even at full-back.

Verhoven is the 14th player to be officially unveiled for Atlético Ottawa and the third to have been picked up from a 2020 Island Games rival.

From the end in sight to the “first time visiting Europe,” how BC’s Zach Verhoven’s career continues to bloom in the most unexpected ways…

At 15-years old, a promising Canadian talent was cut from the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program and, unsurprisingly for a teenager suffering such a blow, wanted to quit the sport all-together.

He reinvented himself playing local soccer though, enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and quickly became a vital component of the Thunderbirds attacking options in 2016. But for Verhoven, that looked like it would be it.

However, fate intervened a little for the kid from Surrey as James Merriman, who had coached Zach at a provincial level years before, was appointed as Pacific FC assistant coach in 2018.

The combination of the first Canadian Premier League USports draft and the impression Verhoven’s “silk footwork” had left on the Nanaimo-raised coach, lead to the Thunderbird’s winger being drafted in November 2018.

Pacific FC took a chance on the slender winger and it paid off, with Verhoven signing his first professional contract with the Vancouver Island side in April 2019.

Described as a player who “comes alive” in 1v1 situations, the 22-year old had moments of brilliance playing for the Tridents but only clocked 309-minutes of playing time at the Island Games in 2021 (though his contributions against HFX Wanderers kept Pacific FC’s season alive).

The CPL, the teams within the competition, and all the players are facing uncertain times with the pandemic changing the landscape of this new interpretation of professional Canadian football before it has had a chance to fully settle.

So when it was announced that Verhoven and Pacific FC would be parting ways in October 2020 you wouldn’t blame the 22-year-old for thinking once more, that his playing days were coming to an end.

Fortunately for him though, his performances on the field did the talking and today, the versatile winger was announced as the latest addition to the Atlético Ottawa family.

With an ability to play up and down either side of the field (as well as slotting in centrally), Verhoven will not only be able to provide cover in a variety of positions but also battle for some crowded spots at the top end of the field, a task the BC native is relishing.

“I love it,” he said.

“Competition for spots on a team brings the best out of everyone.

“The quality we have on the roster pushes me to be at my best everyday.

“I focus on what I can control and the coaching staff will make the right decisions for the team,” Verhoven told CCSG.

Competing for the winger positions isn’t anything new for Zach (being on a roster with two of the best wingers from the 2020 Island Games last year), but considering his career path so far, the “deceptively quick” Canadian has every right to back himself.

Interesting locations for pre-season training isn’t something new for the 22-year-old, but as he joins up with the squad in Madrid it’s an opportunity for Verhoven to tick something off his bucket list as it’s his “very first time visiting Europe”.

This isn’t something he takes lightly either, especially in light of the current global struggles.

“I have been cherishing every moment here,” he explained

“To be here during current times, with the pandemic, is a blessing.

“Getting away on a trip has definitely helped bond the group, we have been enjoying the experience together.

“The facilities are unreal, I could not ask for a better view while playing either!” he added.

The Fijian-Canadian has drawn unsurprising comparisons to Roy Krishna, and not just for his nationality.

With quick feet, skills in abundance and pace to beat most defenders in a one-on-one, Verhoven is, at 22-years-old, still a very exciting prospect who is sure to only get better under the tutelage of the likes of Mista and even new teammate Jordan Webb.

His ability to slot in at full-back when needed will provide an added layer of coverage for the slender options in those positions at Ottleti, and all the fans can rest assured that this season, flair is not something that will be lacking in the Capital City’s side.

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