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Maple Ridge phenom creates lifelong memories in first year of pro soccer

TJ Tahid is now trying to win his roster spot with Team Canada for U17 World Cup
Taryck TJ Tahid (right) finished his first pro soccer season, and is now working toward playing for Team Canada at the U17 World Cup. (Canadian Premier League/Special to The News)

Vancouver FC has just finished the team’s first season of professional soccer, but the new club’s young phenom from Maple Ridge is still chasing his career goals.

Taryck ‘TJ’ Tahid is able to take a pause to look back on all that he has accomplished in his first season as the baby of the entire CPL. He was the youngest player in Canadian Premier League (CPL) history to sign a standard professional contract, at 16 years and 16 days.

It was a season of ups and downs, but he’ll never forget scoring his first goal against Victoria’s Pacific FC at his home field in Langley. Tahid took a pass at the top of the box, “touched, turned and hit it into the bottom right corner.”

Then he was mobbed by jubilant teammates.

“That was a big highlight of my year.”

His third and final goal was another beauty, and he scored it in front of his grandparents, who travelled to Winnipeg to watch his Vancouver FC squad take on Valour. He raced onto a pass, struck a bounding ball on a half volley, and hammered it into the bottom of the net.

Playing professional men’s soccer was a huge challenge, but Tahid proved to himself that he belongs.

“I knew it was going to be physical,” he said, noting that he had played against men in the past.

But taking the pitch against these more polished men, each chasing their own soccer career, was demanding.

“I had a blast doing it, and knowing that I could compete,” he said.

The midfielder finished his first professional season making six starts in 20 appearances for Vancouver FC.

But he’s not done.

Now Tahid is still training for a chance to play for Canada at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023. He has been invited to a week-long camp for evaluation and preparation before the final roster is chosen. Last month he had been selected to be part of a two-game friendly series against the defending champs in Brazil, and was elated to get another call.

“I was really excited to get the opportunity to get back with the team again,” he said.

Playing with the squad in Brazil, he felt they showed they could compete against one of the top sides in the world. He liked the determination his teammates showed, and felt their support for each other. They came together quickly.

“I feel the way the team plays, we play very good football compared to what typical Canadian football can look like,” he said.

It’s a tough team to make. There will be 40-45 elite players invited to the camp, but just 21 will be on the Canadian team.

“I have to show well in pre-camp, and impress the coaches,” he said.

READ ALSO: Vancouver FC makes Maple Ridge teen the league’s youngest player

The FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023 marks the first biennial tournament since the global pandemic. Canada will play in Group B and first face Spain on Nov. 10. Canada will compete against Uzbekistan on Nov. 13, then Mali on Nov. 16. Tahid hopes to be in those games.

His coach is confident.

“It does not surprise me that TJ is representing Canada at this preparation camp and I’m optimistic that he will be playing in the next FIFA U-17 World Cup this November,” said Vancouver FC coach Afshin Ghotbi.

“TJ’s talents of physicality, technical ability, and his football IQ combined with his strong character and fighting spirit make him a top youth international with the potential to reach global standards,” he added. “TJ has natural instincts to take the right positions, achieve accurate timing and possesses a lazer accurate final touch in front of the goal to make him a natural goal scorer.

“We have witnessed an evolution of a young man into a world class young professional in less than nine months at VFC, and we are confident that he will play a massive role in the success of Canada’s men’s national teams at the U-17 World Cup and beyond.”

As for the next CPL season, simply by physically growing and maturing the teen would be expected to improve as an athlete, and return to Vancouver FC as a better player. However, Tahid plans to continue working on his skills and polishing his game.

“Every part of my game, I have to work on for next season,” he said, noting the team has the highest of aspirations, after failing to make the playoffs this season.

He also has set personal goals.

“To earn a starting spot with the squad, and make as much of an impact as I can,” he said.

He intends to keep working hard, and “stay humble.”

Despite being the youngest, Tahid said he was accepted by his teammates.

“I’m the little brother in the changeroom, and everyone treats me well.”

READ ALSO: B.C.’s Bedard impressing NHL peers with the way he’s handled the attention

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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