First impressions can be either hit or miss in pro soccer, especially in a brand new league with brand new teams. Many players waited years for the Canadian Premier League to come around, and some of them enjoyed breakout campaigns in 2019 – Forge FC’s Tristan Borges immediately springs to mind. Others had to wait in the wings, as a rash of injuries left some CPL players watching from the sidelines for most of the season. Marcel De Jong was one of them. The 32-year-old fullback was locked up by Pacific FC on Friday for the 2020 season after spending all but two matches of this past year out of commission with an Achilles injury. While fortunate to return to action after a less-than-ideal first impression, De Jong no doubt wishes he could do 2019 all over again, just like these other Year 1 CPLers. RELATED READING: Cast your ballot: CPL Fan Awards
Marcel De Jong – Pacific FC (Achilles)

De Jong was arguably the biggest high-profile player in the CPL when he joined Pacific in January. The fanfare was immense: a massive press conference, countless photo and video opportunities, and even a pub night where members of Lake Side Buoys sang his name – all before their club even kicked a ball. Then, in March, tragedy struck. A torn Achilles sent De Jong to the ground during a pre-season training session. The early prognosis was that De Jong likely wouldn’t see the pitch in 2019. Still, he vowed to return, and the former Canadian international ended up coming back – seven months after the injury – with just two matches remaining in Pacific’s inaugural campaign. Unlike others on this list, De Jong’s story has a silver lining. The club picked up his contract option for 2020 despite the lack of playing time, entrusting the veteran fullback to lead a young group of players next year. Who knows what Pacific FC could do in 2020 with a healthy De Jong?
Hendrik Starostzik – Pacific FC (Foot)

Hendrik Starostzik had a dream debut for Pacific on April 28 before things went sideways. Starostzik made history as the first captain and goal-scorer for the Tridents at a packed Westhills Stadium. He was immense as a leader at the back, leading the Volkswagen Premier Performer for several weeks. The 28-year-old centre back was poised for a big season before a nagging foot injury saw him sit out the next 10 matches. Starostzik wouldn’t return until July 14, the second match of the Fall campaign. He would move on from the injury to start 11 of Pacific’s last 14 matches, well after supporters thought about what could have been in the Spring. Unlike De Jong, Starostik wasn’t given a second chance. Pacific opted to release the German in November, sending the club’s first goal-scorer packing after a single season. Was that unlucky injury to blame?
Luis Alberto Perea – HFX Wanderers FC (Hand)

HFX Wanderers supporters will remember Perea’s goal for the rest of their lives in their home opener. Running across Forge FC’s backline, the Colombian striker rolled a winner into the net, sending Wanderers Grounds into a tizzy. Soccer had arrived in Halifax, and Perea was in the middle of it. From there, Perea was in and out of the squad for months – thanks to a nagging hand injury. Perea had two goals and an assist through three matches before undergoing surgery. When he returned, Perea wore protective gear to cover his injured paw and claimed it was uncomfortable to play. It wasn’t all lost for Perea, who scored two goals against Ottawa Fury in the Canadian Championship. But HFX struggled for most of the season without their big-ticket striker.
Michael Petrasso – Valour FC (Hamstring)

It took Michael Petrasso a couple months to get up to full fitness. But early on he showed some glimpses of what he was capable of at the CPL level. After a collecting an assist on the club’s first-ever goal, followed by a marker of his own in his club’s home opener, the Canadian men’s national team veteran looked poised to power Valour to a solid Spring run. Then, in Calgary on May 9, Petrasso went down with a hamstring injury – the same match in which Josip Golubar suffered a season-ending injury. Without Petrasso, Valour lost four straight matches to close the Spring. The Fall season didn’t smile kindly on Valour until Petrasso returned on August 1 to score a penalty and salvage a point at home to Pacific FC. By then it was too late for Valour. Grabbing three points from five matches put them in sixth, well behind the pacesetters. It was not, however, too late for Petrasso to piece together a good year. The 24-year-old went on a four-match goalscoring streak later in August. Looking back, Petrasso’s output was incredible: six goals, five assists across 18 matches. Still, Valour fans were left wondering about what could have been.

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