Josh Heard’s pro sports journey has come full circle to where it began.
The Lakehill Soccer Association graduate, taken 71st overall in the 2016 MLS draft by the Vancouver Whitecaps out of the NCAA Pac-12 University of Washington Huskies, was signed Friday by Pacific FC.
“I never thought I could come home to play pro soccer,” said Heard.
The 25-year-old is exactly the sort of player the Canadian Premier League was established for last year when it became the long-awaited domestic pro circuit.
“I grew up here in the soccer community and now I get to represent that community and give back at the pro level,” said Heard, who also played Island Metro and for the Victoria Highlanders.
He has had pro experience in the USL with Bethlehem Steel and Salt Lake City Real Monarchs and third division in Europe.
Pacific FC general manager and CEO Rob Friend played eight seasons in the Bundesliga, with 32 caps for Canada, and knows talent. He said he sees it in the attacking-midfielder Heard. The Island connection made the deal further irresistible.
“Signing such an established professional player, who’s come through the Vancouver Island soccer community, is extremely rewarding,” said Friend, who said he has had his eyes on Heard for a while.
“Josh was one of the first players we targeted when we started last season. [Now] Josh is a huge addition to the club as we head into our 2020 season.”
Heard’s Island pedigree includes coming up in the Reynolds Secondary School soccer academy under former pro player Dave Ravenhill, who died this month of a heart attack at age 57.
“Dave had a huge impact on my career,” said Heard.
“He was our pillar in soccer. His influence will live on through his former players.”
Among the things Heard learned along the way is that pro sport can be cut-throat but that also means it needs to be approached with the right attitude.
“It’s serious at the pro level. But you still need to enjoy your football and play it with a smile on your face, which is what I always try to do,” he said.
Heard has liked what he has seen since joining PFC training camp this month.
“The CPL is a good, young league,” he said.
“We have a lot of young talent led by the veteran arrow point that is Marcel de Jong [the PFC captain and 56-time Canada capped former Bundesliga and MLS pro]. There is some serious talent in the CPL. I can’t wait to contribute.”
Heard will get that chance in the CPL’s upcoming pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season to take place in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
“It’s not a long season because of the [COVID] situation, so it’s going to be fast, flying and intense,” said Heard.
“We have the team that can make a deep run in the tournament.”
With the addition of Heard, and subtraction of a player to be announced to be loaned to a club in Germany, Pacific FC will be taking a roster of 19 players to Charlottetown.
CORNER KICKS: Former PFC striker Marcus Haber, who had 27 caps for Canada with three goals, has signed with Calgary’s Cavalry FC of the CPL. The 31-year-old had four goals in 15 games during his injury-hampered season last year with PFC.