The last two matches Kadin Chung has played against a Canadian Premier League side, he has lifted a trophy after the final whistle.
The first came in December of 2021, as Chung and his Pacific FC teammates defeated Forge in the 2021 Canadian Premier League Final. Six months later, he was back in Hamilton with Toronto FC, helping his new side to defeat Forge on penalties in the 2020 Canadian Championship Final (played in June of 2022 due to pandemic postponement).
The next time he steps on the pitch as a Canadian Premier League player, he will be part of a different kind of history. On Monday, Vancouver FC announced that Chung will be a key part of their inaugural roster, joining the club after parting ways with Toronto FC last week.
It is a homecoming for the 24-year-old fullback, not just to the league itself, but quite literally to the area where he grew up. Langley Events Centre, where Vancouver FC will play home matches, is less than a half-hour drive from Port Coquitlam, where Chung grew up, and where he began playing soccer at the age of six with Coquitlam Metro Ford SC.
“That sense of pride in a club that’s in your hometown,” Chung told CanPL.ca of what excites him most about joining Vancouver FC. “It means a lot to me, where I grew up, and where it all started. Not only that but to have a staff that’s fresh with new ideas and experience like Afshin [Ghotbi] has, [I’m] just excited to be a part of something new again. I had that experience with Pacific when they first started and it’s going to be exciting to do it again.”
As Chung mentioned, he comes into this process with unique experience. In November 2018, he became the first-ever signing of Pacific FC. He would go on to play 63 matches on the Island, including, as mentioned, lifting the North Star Shield in 2021. He will bring that knowledge of what it is like to play for a first-year club to Vancouver FC.
“It’s a bit of a full circle, at the time Pacific was the closest thing I had to that sense of hometown pride,” said Chung. “Now that there’s a team actually right in the Lower Mainland it’s special. It’s something that, I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s going to be a great experience.”
Chung doesn’t have to wait long before he gets to face his former club. Vancouver FC and Pacific FC meet at Starlight Stadium on April 15, the opening day of the 2023 Canadian Premier League season. After experiencing a provincial derby match against the Vancouver Whitecaps during the 2021 Canadian Championship while playing for Pacific, he is looking forward to what this season-long rivalry will bring.
“We’re going to have that whole season of competitiveness between the two clubs,” said Chung. “It’s going to be weird being back there in a different kit for sure, but I’m excited about it. I hope the reception is good as well and they can understand my decision.”
Chung joins an already impressive roster that Ghobti and Vancouver FC are putting together. Last week they announced the signing of 27-year-old Liga MX striker Gael Sandoval, to complement a roster that already includes CPL veterans Rocco Romeo, Elliot Simmons, Gabriel Bitar and Chung’s former Pacific teammate Callum Irving. The goal has always been to hit the ground running, one which Chung embraces wholeheartedly.
“It’s important to build a competitive team right from the start,” he said. “There are a lot of guys on the squad that are hungry. Maybe not the experience at this level, but they’re hungry, and there’s not much more that you can ask for in terms of young players.
“Some of the experience from the guys is going to be key in the first season, directing and leading, myself included. Callum [Irving] and I have won the league before, it has only made me hungrier, and I’m sure it’s the same for him. We don’t want to be a team that in the first season is using that excuse of being a new team. We want to be competitive and win games, and I think the squad is looking to move in that direction as well.”
Adding to Chung’s hunger are the circumstances under which he makes his Canadian Premier League return. After winning the North Star Shield with Pacific in 2021, Chung and Pacific teammate Lukas MacNaughton were signed by MLS side Toronto FC. After a solid start, during which Chung appeared in eight of the club’s first 11 matches, injuries and a number of new signings would see him play just once more in 2022 for the senior team — the aforementioned 2020 Canadian Championship Final against Forge. Chung and the club agreed to mutually terminate his contract last week.
While the lack of playing time ultimately led Chung to start looking for other opportunities, he says he still gained an immense amount of experience just by being in that environment.
“They have a team that you could argue is the best on paper in MLS,” he said. “So I always knew it was going to be tough to break in, but every day going in there with the mindset of learning, I get to train against some of the best players in the world. The leadership and the lessons that I have gotten from guys like Jonathan Osorio and Michael Bradley, Lorenzo Insigne, and Federico Bernardeschi, all these guys are pushing me every day. So I’m bringing that back with me.”
Ultimately, however, every player wants to be on the field on gameday, not during training. That desire has brought Chung back to his hometown, now with an added chip on his shoulder to go along with that experience.
“There is that motivation and that urge for me to prove myself again,” he said. “I feel like I can play at that level again, hopefully at another stage in my career. CPL was what got me to that level. I know I can get back there again, so I’m hoping to use this first and foremost to be a part of this team and bring success to Vancouver, but also to get back to the level that got me my first MLS contract.”
If all goes to plan that will mean making even more history with Vancouver FC on the pitch in 2023. He knows what it takes to win at this level and doesn’t intend on doing anything less this upcoming season, expansion side or not.
“Once you get a taste of winning, that’s all that really consumes you,” he said. “I want to bring Vancouver to the playoffs and make a run and win, that is the ultimate goal. I think we have a group that can push that. That has to be the number one goal for me.”