Surrey’s Zach Verhoven returns home with Vancouver FC

It didn’t take Zach Verhoven long to settle in as the newest member of Vancouver FC. 

The 25-year-old winger arrived in Langley on March 4 on a trial basis with hopes of joining the dark side permanently, less than 10 days later Verhoven had already proved he was born to be an Eagle. 

The transition to his new club, which he joined on a 1 year contract with a club option for 1 year, has been seamless, Verhoven said on Wednesday, the day before he was announced as the latest addition to VFC’s squad ahead of the 2024 Canadian Premier League (CPL) season. Vancouver’s coaching staff and players alike have greeted him with open arms, and it helped to be met by a lot of familiar faces in the dressing room. 

But it was more than just the welcome from his new colleagues that helped Verhoven get acclimatized to his new surroundings so quickly. Like so many of his now teammates, there is a personal element behind Verhoven’s instant connection with the club. 

“It is home,” he said with a smile.

It’s the first time in his professional career that the native of Surrey, B.C. can truly say that. Verhoven, an alum of Surrey United SC, the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy and the University of British Columbia’s men’s soccer team, hasn’t represented a Vancouver-based club in 6 years. He thought he was as close to playing at home as he was going to get when he spent two seasons with Pacific FC in Langford, B.C. in 2019 and 2020, registering 33 appearances, three goals and three assists for what was, at the time, the CPL’s only B.C.-based organization. 

A move to Atlético Ottawa, where he signed as a free agent ahead of the 2021 CPL season and spent the next three years, took Verhoven even further away from his roots.

Now back in Vancouver, Verhoven finds himself playing professionally just 30 minutes away from where he grew up, and near where his parents, grandparents, older brother and younger sister still live. It’s a dream come true for Verhoven, and with it comes a deep sense of pride.

“To play in front of family and friends and to be with a group with a lot of familiar faces, it’s very exciting,” he said. “Just excited to get started.”

Verhoven will do just that beginning Sunday, April 14, when Vancouver opens its sophomore CPL season with a home match against Valour FC. He will be joined by a growing contingent of local players who are set to represent Vancouver this season, including Callum Irving, Kadin Chung, Paris Gee, Ben Fisk, David Norman, James Cameron, TJ Tahid, Anthony White and Grady McDonnell. 

Seeing how many local signings Vancouver brought in this off-season was part of the appeal of VFC for Verhoven when he assessed his own options. So was the opportunity to work with Vancouver head coach Afshin Ghotbi. After speaking with the man in charge and hearing his plans for the 2024 season, Verhoven’s sense that Vancouver was a fit for him was affirmed.

“It was pretty clear that I thought this was a great opportunity for me,” he said. 

In Verhoven, Vancouver gets a quick and dangerous attacker who thrives in one-on-one situations. He is another player who brings vast and valuable CPL experience to the club despite his still relatively young age, he can share first-hand experience with the youngsters in VFC’s squad about what it takes to break in, and stay in, the league.

As a member of the Ottawa side that won the regular season and reached the CPL Final in 2022, Verhoven also knows what it takes to be successful both over the grind of the 28-game regular season schedule and during the playoff sprint, where Vancouver hopes to land this coming October. All that and more made him a good fit for VFC in Ghotbi’s mind.

“We are thrilled to sign one of the best wingers in the Canadian Premier League”, Said Ghotbi. “Zach can skip, jump and sprint past defenders at will, and his qualities to provide assists and goals will give Vancouver FC another welcomed dimension in the attack.  Zach’s history and connection to BC and the local football community will make his integration and success at the club organic and imminent.

For all the individual assets, including his skill on the ball, his pace, his ability to create chances and score goals, that Verhoven brings to the team, his mindset is focused on the collective. Verhoven’s aim coming into the VFC set up is one he likely shares with all of his new teammates, but particularly the growing contingent of local players who will be repping the side this season: Come home and win.

“I think that everyone has their individual goals but for me I really want to come back to this club and help them win, make the playoffs,” Verhoven said. “I think if we have a collective good season as a team then as individuals, we’re all going to show. The focus is … winning here.”

Be there in the stands to watch Zach play at Willoughby Community Park in 2024, Season Memberships available now!