Pacific FC captain Marcel de Jong says it’s all a matter of perspective. He prefers to look at pandemic soccer “as much as an adventure as a challenge.”
De Jong has played in the Bundesliga, Dutch Premiership, MLS and has been capped 56 times for Canada. He has been through a lot on fields across the world, but no one has been through anything like this before. His attitude is: It’s here, it’s a fact, so you might as well get used to it.
“I’ve seen a lot of football in my career, but this is a first,” he said.
“But we are still doing what we love to do most, which is play football. And in the end, that’s all that matters.”
De Jong leads Island-based Pacific FC into its opening 2020 Canadian Premier League game today against the HFX Wanderers of Halifax (noon PDT on CBC).
All games will be played on the University of Prince Edward Island’s FIFA-standard Alumni Field turf facility sans fans amid the league’s “bubble” after Charlottetown beat out Langford and Moncton, N.B., to host the CPL season tournament.
“We haven’t seen anybody play except [2019 CPL finalists Forge FC of Hamilton and Cavalry FC of Calgary who opened the tournament Thursday], so basically, every opposition team is a mystery,” said de Jong.
“We are just in the mindset of playing our game and concentrating on ourselves and our play.”
De Jong will anchor a solid PFC backline. But the team’s strength appears to be a forward-thinking, pressing and attacking midfield likely to consist of Victor Blasco, Marco Bustos, Jamar Dixon, Noah Verhoeven and Zach Verhoven.
“We have a dynamic team that will be looking to control the play with high pressure and getting the ball back as soon as we lose it,” said de Jong. “You will not see any long balls, but only good and attractive football from us. I believe we have the performers who can play that way.”
That type of approach takes energy.
“There are a lot of games over a short period of time,” de Jong said. “So the allowing of more subs [five per game compared with the usual three] will very much help in that regard. Everybody is going to get their chance through this tournament.”
Each of the eight teams will play the other once in the round-robin portion of the made-for-TV tournament. PFC’s other games are against York9 on Tuesday at 10 a.m., Forge FC on Aug. 22 at 1 p.m., Valour FC of Winnipeg on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., Cavalry FC on Aug. 30 at 9 a.m., Atletico Ottawa on Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. and FC Edmonton on Sept. 6 at noon. All times are PDT.
The top-four teams will advance to a playoff-round robin. The top team from that will go directly into the league championship game while the second- and third-place teams will meet in a semifinal with the winner advancing to the championship final.
All games will be broadcast live over the web on OneSoccer while CBC will broadcast doubleheaders nationally on Saturdays.
All eight CPL teams quarantined for 14 days before leaving their cities and quarantined an additional five days in Charlottetown, where each club is occupying a separate floor in the city’s waterfront Delta hotel.
Each player was tested for COVID in their home communities and again upon landing in Charlottetown. All tests among CPL players, coaches and staff have been negative.
This is the second year for the long-awaited Canadian domestic pro soccer league, mandated by FIFA, as part of Canada hosting the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico. No one could have anticipated the sophomore CPL being played in this abbreviated fashion amid a pandemic.
“The hotel is great and they have given us lots to do, so we are not bored,” said de Jong.
He certainly won’t be bored today.