Marcel de Jong fully supports Pacific FC in its philosophy to “trust the kids.”
He just hopes that as Pacific moves forward with its youth movement that it will also continue to find a place for an older guy like him.
De Jong, a 33-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont., needn’t worry, though. Pacific announced on Friday that de Jong is contracted through to the 2020 season, a move that comes after he missed most of this past CPL campaign due to injury.
Under CPL rules, each team has to have at least three Canadians under the age of 21 on their roster, and those players have to combine to play a minimum of 1,000 minutes during the season. All seven clubs met the quota in 2019, but Pacific went above and beyond the 1,000-minute threshold – 10 of their U-21 players combined for a league-high 13,532 minutes. To put that number into context, Valour FC finished second in the CPL with 5,435 minutes.
Even more impressive is that Pacific had six U-21 players who eclipsed the 1,000-minute mark on their own: Terran Campbell (2,334), Kadin Chung (2,032), Noah Verhoeven (1,850), Matthew Baldisimo (1,809), Alessandro Hojabrpour (1,731) and Zachary Verhoven (1,285).
De Jong, by contrast, only played 50 minutes over two appearances, as he was forced to sit out the majority of the campaign after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in pre-season training.
Pacific stumbled out of the gate, winning just one of their first seven games in the Spring season. The Fall campaign was just as rough on the team from Vancouver Island, as they collected just five wins and finished fifth in the overall table.
Despite the team’s lack of results on the pitch, de Jong believes Pacific should continue to “trust the kids” in 2020.
“I like how we stress young players in our team … They’re all hungry, they all want to learn, and this is a good way to develop them and get them ready for the next step in their careers. I would keep doing what we’re doing in terms of trusting the young kids, so long as they save a space for a veteran like me,” de Jong quipped in a recent interview with CanPL.ca.
De Jong warns that Pacific’s kids will face greater expectations of them in 2020 after they logged such a great amount of playing time this past season.
“These kids need at some point to have a chance, and play professionally, and get thrown into the lion’s den, and this was the perfect moment to do it in the first year in the CPL. Now they have it under their belt, it’s time for them to really prove themselves. Now that this first year is all behind them, they have to focus on getting better,” de Jong offered.
One of Pacific’s youngsters that de Jong is very high on is Campbell. A 21-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C., Campbell was previously with Whitecaps FC 2 and Fresno FC in the USL before signing with Pacific last January.
He ended up taking the CPL by storm by finishing tied with Cavalry’s Dominique Malonga for second in the league’s scoring race with 11 goals. Campbell came out of nowhere to capture the attention of a lot of people in 2019, including de Jong.
“To be honest I was surprised. Pacific signed (Marcus) Haber as our No. 1 striker, but he dealt with a lot of injuries like me. That’s when (Terran) really stepped up and proved himself to be our No. 1 striker,” de Jong explained.
“He did excellent; nothing but positives about him, he’s such a great kid and really humble. But the thing is, everybody knows about him now, so he’ll have to do it all again next year. He has to raise his standard and if he does that, he can only get better.”
Before coming to the CPL, de Jong played for Helmond Sport and Roda JC in the Netherlands, as well as German outfit FC Augsburg. He also debuted for Canada’s national team in 2007 and went on to earn 56 caps, scoring three goals and adding two assists. His last appearance for the Reds came in 2018.
He believes this wealth of experience can prove to be invaluable for Pacific on the pitch next season. But beyond making a full-time return as a player in 2020, the veteran midfielder/defender is also starting to think about what he’s going to do once his playing career is over.
“I think about it more and more nowadays, especially during the off-season when I have a lot of free time and am trying to stay busy. I’ve tried to get involved with the club. Hopefully a youth academy will come soon (at Pacific) because I love working with kids,” de Jong said.
“On weekends when I have nothing to do, I’ll go out in the community and watch kids play soccer. It’s good to get my face out there so people will recognize me and show them that I’m interested in helping kids to develop. It’s probably something I will do after my career is over.”
But de Jong was quick to reiterate he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, and isn’t prepared to retire just yet.
“It’s around the corner. I’m not saying this is my last year, because I definitely feel like I can play a couple more years,” de Jong stated.