VANCOUVER ISLAND — As Pacific FC continues its pre-season in Punta Cana, its star signing is looking to speed his progress back to the pitch. Nearly a month after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a training, Marcel de Jong is focused on the season ahead.
While the club is in the Dominican Republic for a slate of friendlies and a first glimpse of the opposition, the 32-year-old de Jong is rehabbing back in Victoria.
“I told [the team] right away, ‘OK, I’m injured. I’m gonna give myself two days to feel sorry for myself, and then I’m going to keep looking forward. Keep my mind focused on something else,” says de Jong, whose signing with Pacific in February captured headlines across the country. “Otherwise, I’ll just go crazy if I sit on the sidelines.”
Previously a fullback with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Sporting KC and the Bundesliga’s FC Augsburg, the left-back arrived in Langford, B.C. as perhaps the league’s premier player signing. His 56 caps for the Canadian men’s national team leads the CPL, and his experience was counted on to mentor a back line with an average age of 22. (Until German-born 27-year-old Hendrik Starostzik’s arrival in March, 23-year-old Lukas MacNaughton was the club’s second-oldest defender.)
Instead, de Jong will focus his attention on contributing off the pitch.
“I’m going to do my best to be involved, and that’s something I need,” says de Jong. “Maybe on the sidelines, helping the guys with certain stuff.”
His years in the Bundesliga will be an asset in gelling with newcomer Starostzik, whose English is still improving. Beyond that, de Jong’s teammates are confident in his ability to still contribute.
“He’s still going to be a huge piece of our squad,” Ben Fisk told CanPL.ca’s Centre Circle LIVE! podcast. “He’s always there for young guys to approach and ask questions, and I think he kind of enjoys that role. He enjoys being a guy that’s always going to be all for the team, whether he’s on the field or not.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking that he’s going to miss a lot of time,” added Fisk, “but we’ve still got to take care of our jobs and be ready and have the team in the best shape possible for when he makes his return.”
De Jong had his cast removed last week and greeted fans at the club’s kit unveiling in Victoria with a walking boot. He was in good spirits, despite the injury.
“I’m going to wear this walking boot for 2-3 months, and hopefully after that, maybe one or two more months [of recovery],” says the Newmarket, Ont. native.
In the meantime, de Jong will watch as his teammates prepare for their season opener against HFX Wanderers on April 28, the first match at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
“I know we’ve got a really good group of guys with good heads on their shoulders,” he says.
How is he feeling?
“Nothing but positive.”