Port Coquitlam's Kadin Chung has been a professional soccer player for eight of his 25 years. But he's only just now settling into his career.
Since turning pro with the Vancouver Whitecaps developmental team in 2015, after he graduated from the Major League Soccer club's Academy program, Chung has alighted his boots in Germany, Victoria, Toronto and almost Fresno, Calif. As well, he's played for Canada's U16, U17, U20 and U23 national teams.
Along the way, his progression has been diverted by injuries, among them a torn hamstring and several more minor ailments that cost him playing time and even positions in the starting lineup.
So when Vancouver FC, a new team in the Canadian Premier League (CPL), called last spring with a two-year contract offer, Chung said he was ready to come home — geographically and figuratively.
"Coming back home, I can be one of the leaders on the team," he said. "I can work with a younger squad."
After less than a month, though, Chung was on the sidelines again, this time with a broken collarbone suffered in a match against Athlético Ottawa when he collided with another player in the 85th minute.
Chung said overcoming injury is as much a mental journey as a physical challenge. And his itinerant career and its accompanying setbacks have made him nothing if not resilient.
"Getting back into the swing of things has been tough," he said. "But after the first game, when I got through that, it went out of my mind."
Chung said being able to play in front of family and friends — about 20 or 30 make the journey from Port Coquitlam to Langley, where Vancouver FC plays at Willoughby Stadium, for his home matches — has given him a boost of energy to really establish himself.
"Being able to look into the crowd and see the people I’m doing this for is very special," he said.
This isn't Chung's first go-round in the CPL. But in the intervening years since he was the first player to sign with Pacific FC in Victoria in 2019, he said the level of play on the pitch and professionalism off it has risen considerably.
The league is no longer just a way-station for players looking to move up to the next level or those hanging on to waning dreams.
And while that means there’s more pressure to keep his game at a consistently high level, Chung said he thrives on the challenge and the leadership role he’s put upon himself.
"You lead by example on the field," he said.
"I feel like I've earned the respect from the guys. They take an interest in what I've done in my career and I'm always available for them. It's a role I haven't been put into before."
When to see Chung in action
Vancouver FC hosts Athletics Ottawa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 7 p.m., at Willoughby Stadium.
The team's final two home matches of its inaugural season will be Sept. 23, 1 p.m., against HFX Wanderers and Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m., against York United.
Go to the team's website for more information and links to get tickets.