How Vancouver FC’s Kadin Chung is ‘reinventing’ himself as a midfielder

Heading into the club’s inaugural season, with a host of players who were either new to the league or the pro game altogether, it was difficult to predict how exactly Vancouver FC would line up in 2023.

There seemed like a few obvious pillars to build around, however. Namely, the first-ever signing and club captain Callum Irving would start between the sticks. Experienced CPL midfielder Elliot Simmons seemed like a sure starter in the midfield. Then there was Kadin Chung, returning to the league after a stint with Toronto FC, who it was assumed would have his name written in pen on the team sheet as a right fullback.

That is where he played throughout the preseason, after all, and when the 26-year-old Port Coquitlam native lifted the North Star Shield in 2021 with Pacific FC. A week before he met his former side, however, in what would be Vancouver FC’s first-ever competitive match, manager Afshin Ghotbi came to Chung with a surprising challenge: he would be deployed as a midfielder this season.

“I think we all need to reinvent ourselves and I felt that he was the best right-back in the league several years ago, then he went on to MLS and now he’s back,” Ghotbi told of his decision. “I felt by creating this challenge for him, I can motivate and inspire him to kind of re-invent himself. I also felt that he’s technically, tactically and physically one of the most complete players in Canadian football. I felt that by coming into the midfield he can influence the team and influence the results.”

RELATED: Historic weekend ahead as Vancouver FC host inaugural home opener on Sunday

Chung has embraced the challenge, trusting that the incredibly experienced Ghotbi has not only what is best for the team in mind with this decision, but also for his career going forward. Ghotbi, for his part, says that sometimes players can be locked into a position just because that is where they have always played from a young age when there could be unrealized potential elsewhere on the field.

“It’s a different side of the game that I was never introduced to before,” Chung told

“The way that you’re kind of connecting the team, from back to front and vice versa. You want to be that connector, you want to be on the ball. It’s a 360 game, it’s no longer 180 or 90 degrees where you have the touchline behind you. You have to be constantly scanning and aware and switched on and it’s something that I actually really enjoy because it’s making me think more about the game as it’s happening. It has been good and it’s something that I feel like adding to my game is going to help me in the long run.”

Through four matches in all competitions with Vancouver so far this season, Chung has proven to be a quick study. This sequence below, from Chung’s best performance to date as a midfielder — this past weekend against the Halifax Wanderers — shows him (no. 2) gliding through the middle of the park as he connects passes and switches play while Vancouver look to break down the Wanderers. Playing in the midfield has allowed him more freedom to roam around the field and connect and combine with teammates.

There are several aspects of Chung’s game that make him well-suited to a midfield role. The most prominent so far this year, however, has been an ability to win the ball back in areas where either he or his team can quickly transition into dangerous attacking moments.

Chung sits second in the league in tackles won through the first four weeks, with eight, while also recording four interceptions. He is also excellent at picking his moments, with a 72 per cent tackle success rate in 2023.

Below is a sampling of Chung’s work so far this season in this regard. Two of the clips, a 15th-minute tackle against York United, and a first half injury time interception against Halifax this past weekend, led to sequences where Vancouver won a penalty, and scored an equalizer, respectively.

Kadin Chung tackles and interceptions (Courtesy: OneSoccer)

“I think that’s where being a fullback helps as well, I like defending in front of me,” said Chung. “I like seeing the game as it is happening and kind of anticipating where passes are going to be and players are going to be running to and I feel like that is something that I can carry over into the midfield.”

Another aspect of Chung’s game that has really been highlighted in his transition to the middle of the park is his passing. He has the ability to play long diagonal switches or line-breaking through-balls, or use his technical ability to progress the ball in tight spaces. So far this year, Chung has also completed a shade over 83 per cent of his passes.

“I see channels and passes, that is one thing that I’ve always thought that I’ve been pretty good at is passing and finding the right pass,” said Chung. “I get to be on the ball a lot more in the midfield, so I get to use that strength a little bit more.” 

Kadin Chung passing range (Courtesy: OneSoccer)

Like with Vancouver FC, this has all come in a rather small sample size. There will surely be more challenges ahead, as player and club navigate uncharted waters over the coming months. Ghotbi, however, is already impressed with what he has seen from Chung so far this season.

“He’s only going to get better, and I think maybe this move will bring him back into international football, and even back into Major League Soccer in the near future,” said Ghotbi.

For now, Chung has his sights on what will be an incredibly special moment for him personally, this weekend’s inaugural home opener against Cavalry FC. Many of his friends and family will be in attendance, and they will have a front-row seat to the latest evolution in Chung’s game.

All clips courtesy of OneSoccer