(Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier/Vancouver FC)
Langley, BC – It’s not every day that one of the Canadian Premier League’s most prolific scorers comes back to British Columbia for a second stint in the league, albeit at a new club. Alejandro Díaz was all smiles when he was presented to the media on Tuesday after the announcement that he was joining Vancouver FC on a one-year loan deal from Norwegian First Division side Sogndal Football, and his heart and mind is very much focused on the task at hand.
One Job, One Goal: Score Goals
It speaks volumes of Díaz’s quality that he finished as the CPL’s 2023 top goalscorer despite leaving halfway through the season. The Mexican frontman scored 13 goals in just 18 appearances for his former club-turned-rivals Pacific FC and currently holds the club’s record for goals with 31 in all competitions.
Rob Friend, owner of Vancouver FC, did not hold back on his plaudits for his other club’s former talisman.
“I am very excited to be sitting here next to Alejandro Díaz, one of the best and most exciting players in the Canadian Premier League in the past,” Friend enthused in Díaz’s inaugural press conference for Vancouver.
“I think Alex is excited for the opportunity to play for this club, to play for this city, to represent the badge, and we’re excited to get him on the field and see him start scoring goals like he [when] he left this league.”
And goals are what the expectation will be from the very start for Diaz, especially with the form VFC have been on as of late. Only Valour (11) have scored fewer goals in the league so far than the Eagles (13), and with a -10 goal difference, the club will want him to ameliorate that differential sooner rather than later.
A much needed leader for the locker room
While Vancouver’s first marquee signing, fellow Mexican Gael Sandoval, might not have gone to plan, the addition of Díaz, who has been tried and tested in this league, will likely reap better rewards for VFC both on and off the pitch.
“I’m super excited and happy to be here and to sign with Vancouver FC,” exclaimed Díaz in his opening statement. “It’s a great challenge and I’m super happy because I love challenges and I’m looking forward to playing as soon as possible and to get some goals.”
Díaz will instantly walk in not only as a superstar but as one of the most experienced and mature players in the squad. At 27 years of age, he becomes the second oldest player in the squad (after the imminent departure of Sandoval), and that comes with some big expectations not just to perform on the pitch, but to help improve the mentality and strength of this young team in all areas.
“I’m excited about that [playing with a young squad],” responded Díaz when questioned about the role he might take. “I think it’s great to have a lot of young guys because I think there’s a lot of quality and, right now, I think we have a really good mix.”
“Between young guys and experienced guys, I am now one of the experienced ones, so for sure I’m going to bring my experience, my time in football, to help with the young kids, especially in the small details like how to be professional [off the pitch], and on the pitch to try to help and support them when they make a mistake.”
If Díaz can help weather the storm that sometimes sweeps up this team in moments of adversity, he will quickly be worth more than just his goals.
Pacific an island gone by, the future is Vancouver
Perhaps the most shocked fans when the news broke about Díaz’s possible arrival, were those of Pacific. Their old marksman has come back home but to the new colours of black and grey rather than purple and gold.
“Of course I’m excited,” remarked Díaz when asked about what his old fans might think about this move, and what he’ll feel ahead of the next derby game. “Obviously I am always gonna be super grateful for Pacific because that’s the team where I came from first, but now I am defending Vancouver FC.
“Once we play Pacific, of course I am gonna work hard to beat them because I’m defending Vancouver and this is my team [now]. I am 100% grateful for them [Pacific] because I spent three amazing years there, but now this is a new stage [for me].”
What was already turning out to be an intense rivalry is only going to be fueled further as another former Pacific darling, after Callum Irving and Kadin Chung, has turned towards the Dark Side. Mouths will definitely water at the potential wars that these stars will have the next time these two teams face each other in August.