Toronto FC's Jacob Shaffelburg relishes Canadian Championship game in Nova Scotia

·4 min read

Toronto FC wingback Jacob Shaffelburg is going home.

Thanks to HFX Wanderers' 2-0 win Tuesday at Guelph United, the Halifax-based CPL team will host Toronto FC and Shaffelburg, a native of Port Williams, N.S., in the quarterfinals of the Canadian Championship later this month.

Shaffelburg, who watched the game online with his visiting girlfriend, called it "the coolest thing ever for me."

Shaffelburg's hometown is about an hour north of Halifax and he expects a large cheering section for the game, which will be played in the May 24-26 window.

"I haven't tried to think about it too much." he said. " It'll be one of those surreal moments, of just being able to play in front of my whole family, like grandparents and every one. And old coaches that I've had growing up. Pretty much everyone that's helped me along the way back home through soccer.

"To see them there and be able to watch will be a really cool moment for me"

In 2018, Shaffelburg played for an under-23 Halifax Wanderers Atlantic Selects team in a friendly against a touring German side. That game was played at Wanderers Ground.

"They have a great fan base. The grass is nice too. It's a great place and a nice atmosphere," he said.

Shaffelburg, who follows the Halifax CPL team on social media, is just happy to see pro soccer in his home province.

"It's cool to see, honestly, because for me growing up we didn't really have anything like that. We just had the university teams. So to see that it's like the coolest thing ever and I kind of wish I had that growing up. It's really nice for Nova Scotia to have that."

Growing up in Port Williams was "pretty hockey-dominated," he said.

"I love it," he said. "It's 1,500 people so you know everyone, even by their car. It's just very local — going to the grocery store you know everyone in there, pretty much … Everyone's happy to see you succeed."

"It's an amazing place … I'd honestly live there when I'm older," he added. "That's how much I love it."

Shaffelburg focused on soccer rather than hockey. But he keeps an eye on the NHL given Ottawa Senators winger Drake Batherson grew up "maybe 100 metres away from me."

The 22-year-old Shaffelburg made his name at the Berkshire School in Massachusetts, a boarding school whose soccer alumni include Leeds United's Jack Harrison and TFC's Ifunanyachi Achara.

First up for Shaffelburg these days is getting healthy. He has missed the last three games with a lower body injury sustained in training.

"I'm feeling better day by day … Should be good soon," he said.

In the other Canadian Championship quarterfinal already decided, Pacific FC will host York United.

Cavalry FC will entertain the winner of Wednesday night's match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Valour FC while CF Montreal will host either Forge FC or Quebec's Mont-Royal Outremont, who also played later Wednesday.

Toronto coach Bob Bradley is no stranger to cup competition, having won the U.S. Open Cup twice with the Chicago Fire and reached the final with the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls). With Los Angeles FC, he lost in the semifinal on a penalty shootout.

He took Stabaek to the semifinals of the Norwegian Cup twice and reminisced fondly about a cup trip there to the Arctic Circle.

"A tiny little club. Incredible," he said. "I saw the midnight sun."

Toronto (3-6-2) looks to snap a four-game losing streak in MLS play when it hosts Orlando City (5-4-2) on Saturday. After going unbeaten for four games (3-0-1), TFC has lost at New York City FC (5-4), to Cincinnati (2-1), at Cincinnati (2-0) and at Vancouver (1-0).

Orlando bounced back from a 4-1 loss at Montreal last Saturday to defeat the visiting Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup play.

Toronto centre back Carlos Salcedo was back training Tuesday, out of COVID health and safety protocols. But Achara, also sidelined by COVID, remained out although he was back at the training centre Wednesday

Defender Chris Mavinga and Shaffelburg also missed training. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, sidelined by a lower body injury, worked out by himself, running laps with a trainer.

"I don't think in the long run it's a big problem," Bradley said of Osorio's injury. "Where is he for this game (Saturday)? I don't know."

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Noble Okello are longer-term injury concerns

Defender Themi Antonoglou, meanwhile, has become the 30th player in club history to sign for the first team from the TFC academy. The 22-year-old signed a homegrown contract after completing the maximum four short-term deals with the first team allowed under MLS rules.

Antonoglou originally joined the academy in January 2015 and made his first TFC 2 appearance in August 2019. His first-team debut was April 24, coming off the bench against NYCFC.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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