The illustrious playing career of Marcel de Jong came to a close this week, with the 34-year-old fullback announcing his retirement on Friday. After a 17-year career that's taken him around the world, de Jong's journey came to a close in his home country. Although de Jong's time with Pacific FC perhaps wasn't the roaring success everyone wanted it to be -- his Achilles injury in early 2019 ultimately limiting him to just nine games played for the Tridents -- the fact that his final games were in Canada (in PEI, to be exact) is a nice closing of the circle. De Jong finished his career with more than 300 professional games, and 56 senior caps for the Canadian national team. Through it all, the Newmarket, Ont., native has been a devoted servant of soccer in his home country, even while plying his trade at the highest levels overseas. Such a career cannot pass without celebration; this is an ideal occasion to look back on de Jong's time as a player. So, here are just some of the best moments from de Jong's long career, both at home and abroad.
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National team debutIn 2007, as de Jong was breaking out for club side Roda JC in the Dutch top flight, he made a decision that would set the foundation for the rest of his career: he chose to play for Canada. Having played in the PSV Eindhoven youth academy since 1996 (and lived in the Netherlands since he was four), de Jong could just as well have chosen to represent the country of his parents' birth. De Jong played for Canada at the 2005 U-20 World Cup (on Dutch soil, no less), but it wasn't until September 2007 that he officially committed to the Canadian senior team. Certainly, he'd be a bigger piece of the puzzle for Canada, but the Oranje had a stronger team with greater World Cup aspirations. But on November 20, 2007 de Jong made his debut for Les Rouges, coming on as a substitute in a hard-fought friendly against impending World Cup hosts South Africa in Durban. Canada lost 2-0 (and they surely left the stadium with that now-notorious vuvuzela buzzing sound stuck in their ears), but getting de Jong formally involved in the team was a victory in itself. This was a transitional period for the Canadian men's team, with the 2000 Gold Cup-winning squad now transitioning into a new generation led by the likes of Atiba Hutchinson (who had been onside just five months before this). As of this game, Canada had secured one of its most talented prospects, and one of its only members playing in a top European league.
Bundesliga promotionAfter four successful years in the Eredivisie, de Jong made a bold move to the German second tier, with FC Augsburg. With the Canadian fullback's help, Augsburg earned promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time ever, in de Jong's first year at the club. De Jong played 27 times for Augsburg in that 2010-11 season, and it seems he was the final piece needed to push the club into the top flight for the first time in its 50-year history. What is it about Canadian fullbacks and club success in Germany? Anyway, de Jong went on to be a reliable workhorse for Augsburg over the next few years, making his Bundesliga debut in 2011 and helping keep the club permanently in the top division. Although injuries riddled his time in Germany (as sadly, they seem to have done on many occasions in de Jong's career), he remained with the side long enough to see them finish fifth in the league in 2014-15 (although he was limited to just one game). He never quite reached the heights at club level of Paul Stalteri or, more recently, Alphonso Davies, but any reflection on de Jong's career has to pay tribute to the successful run he had in Germany.
Gold Cup stunner vs. Costa RicaPerhaps de Jong's most memorable moment in a Canada shirt came near the beginning of his career. Canada entered their final group stage game at the 2009 Concacaf Gold Cup with a perfect 2-0 record, having beaten both Jamaica and El Salvador. Still, they needed to avoid defeat in the third match against Costa Rica in order to secure first place in Group A. The game was a cracker; Costa Rica took a lead in the 23rd minute, and Patrice Bernier equalized for Canada just two minutes later. Three minutes after that, de Jong found himself standing over a free kick about 40 yards from goal. His initial attempt came right back to him in midfield, and de Jong -- full confidence on display -- fired a screamer over almost every player on the pitch into the back of the net, making it 2-1 Canada. Costa Rica did equalize, but Canada held on for the draw to win their group for the second consecutive tournament. Of course, they ended up with a tougher knockout round draw because of it (and they'd go on to lose to Honduras), but still. De Jong's goal was the moment he became one of the real stars of this national team. Turned out, de Jong had something of a penchant for highlight-worthy goals, too. He scored off a long-range free kick after some trickery in a 2014 friendly against Jamaica, and then hit another long-range stunner against Ghana the next year. All three of de Jong's international goals were brilliant, but the one that where it all started is surely the most impressive.
Pacific FC returnWhen de Jong first signed for Pacific FC in early 2019, he brought with him all the excitement of a truly established national team veteran choosing to play in a brand-new league. As one of Pacific's first players, de Jong might've been the club's marquee star in the inaugural season -- were it not for a devastating Achilles injury suffered in training camp. At the time of his injury, the prognosis was bleak: it did not look like de Jong would be playing for Pacific in 2019. Incredibly, de Jong had returned to the training pitch by June, just three months after his surgery. Despite age and injury, the fullback continued to work as hard as possible to recover from the injury, and the results finally started to show. On October 9, with Pacific playing on the road at HFX Wanderers FC, de Jong finally made his triumphant return. “I wouldn’t say it’s another day at the office. It was special, after such a long time being away with an injury,” De Jong said at the time. “As soon as you step on the pitch, everything is forgotten – the six months is forgotten. It’s gone. It’s behind me. You move on and you just deal with it. That’s what I tried to do. I didn’t have any nerves or anything like that. I was just happy to be out there on my daughter’s birthday. It’s been a special day.” It had been 208 days since de Jong's injury -- certainly a faster recovery than expected. He went on to play once more for Pacific that season (their inspired 2-0 win over Valour FC to close out the year), meaning he did finally get to appear at home before the fans at Westhills Stadium. De Jong stuck around with Pacific for more football, ultimately playing seven more games for the side at The Island Games. The Canadian veteran did, in the end, manage to finish his playing career on a high note, with 62 minutes in Pacific's 5-0 drubbing of the Wanderers in PEI. Over a long career, de Jong has had plenty of ups and downs. At the end of it all, though, the longtime national team stalwart will be remembered as one of the best servants of the game this country has had.