Few observers had Sean Young or Jordan Haynes pegged as breakout performers for Pacific FC before the 2020 Canadian Premier League tournament began in a bubble at Charlottetown, P.E.I. But both were revelations during the abbreviated pro soccer CPL season, in which PFC placed third.
Expected to play only secondary roles, Young got into nine of the 10 games and started five of them, and Haynes made eight appearances with five starts.
The pair were rewarded Thursday as part of the first group of five players PFC signed for 2021.
“Sean and I weren’t the guys that people knew a lot about heading into Charlottetown,” said Haynes.
Haynes, a 24-year-old fullback, played for Oklahoma City of the USL, but stepped away from pro soccer last year to play for the UBC Thunderbirds and caught the eye of PFC assistant coach James Merriman at the U Sports championship.
“We were kind of the unsung players heading in. But I knew what I could do, and Sean knew what he could do, so it was not news to us that we made big statements,” said Haynes.
Young, 19, is an Island Wave and Victoria Highlanders product who handled his step up to the pros with surprising maturity and calmness.
“The speed and physicality of the pro game was that biggest thing I had to learn,” said the six-foot-two midfielder, who won the VISL Jackson Cup with Westcastle United in 2019.
“And also the smartness of the pros. Pros are clever players.”
Both Young and Haynes are appreciative of having had a season at all, even if it meant six weeks in a hotel bubble on the other side of the country.
“I’ll always have a unique rookie pro season to look back on that was unlike any other,” said Young.
“You got to know your teammates well. I would not trade this experience for anything.”
The league effort that went into pulling off this season was not lost on Haynes, either.
“It was weird to have no fans in the stadium, but then to get back to the hotel and receive messages from across the country, and even from around the world, from people who watched the games on TV or online. The exposure was exciting,” Hatnes said.
Also signed for 2021 and returning to the PFC roster is 26-year-old hometown Victoria product Josh Heard, the attacking midfielder taken in the 2016 MLS draft by the Vancouver Whitecaps out of the NCAA Pac-12 University of Washington Huskies. Midfielder Matthew Baldisimo will also be returning.
The fifth signee announced is veteran defender and team captain Marcel de Jong, at 34 still with something left in the tank.
De Jong is the spiritual leader of the PFC squad and was capped 56 times for Canada and has played for FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga, Roda JC in the Dutch Eredivisie and Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS in a 16-year pro career, the last three wwith PFC.
“Marcel is a leader on this team and we greatly value his experience and [Baldisimo] has taken huge steps in his development as a player,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.
“Josh [Heard], Jordan [Haynes] and Sean [Young] are players with endless potential for the future.”
Pacific CEO and GM Rob Friend labelled the five signees “important pillars of the club.”
The team announced Zach Verhoven will not be returning next season.