In Rhythm With Patrick Metcalfe
When we met up with Patrick Metcalfe at Minoru Park, he was coming straight from his morning training session. The day before, the Richmond native didn’t get back home till 5am with their flight from Houston getting delayed. In his second year with the Vancouver Whitecaps, he’s gotten used to the late nights and early mornings. For him, simple mundane routines, like pre-planning his fits well in advance, helps him bring some structure to the intense life of a professional athlete.
“Actually I start off the night before, I check the weather and plan out my fit for the next day, so I have it ready to go,” he says.
In the midst of his team’s fight to clinch a playoff spot, we catch Pat in the middle of move out day. Born and raised in Richmond, BC, Patrick’s starting a new journey as he leaves the community he’s called home for the past 22 years to move into his own place in Vancouver.
“I've been fortunate to live at this home and save up quite a bit of money,” Patrick says with a laugh.
As a homegrown talent, the Whitecaps midfielder’s unceasing love for the game of soccer began at the age of 6 and was nurtured throughout his teen years, whether it was through his experiences playing in BC Soccer or his healthy devotion to EA Sports’ FIFA franchise. From the fights through injury rehab to the dissolving of teams, Pat’s road to the Whitecaps required a lot of self-belief to reach this point in his career.
But he didn’t do it alone. The sacrifices his parents made - the rides to practice; the money for the gear, the trainers, the out of town tournaments - never went unnoticed or unappreciated by Patrick. To this day, his proudest moment was seeing them in the BC Place stands for his first MLS game.
As he takes us through his home, we’re surrounded by images of family portraits, childhood photos of him and his brother playing soccer together, and souvenirs collected from different family holidays. The feelings of nostalgia through the fragments of family experiences show how close knit Patrick and his family are. We delve into the importance of this support system, his journey through the professional soccer world, and how a Filipino-Canadian talent made it to the MLS.
Roden Gray: I know you guys just got back from Houston. How was that?
Patrick Metcalfe: Four and a half hour flight, which is our longest away trip. So that combined with the humidity and the heat is a tough game. So we're happy to come up with the tie at Houston.
RG: What’s your mindset when you lock in, before a game?
PM: The preparation for a game starts the day before, so it's how you're eating and hydrating leading up to that game day. I know a lot of players have specific routines like their superstitions, but personally, I don't have that many, so I try to just focus and make sure that I'm getting the right nutrients in my body before the game.
RG: How do you maintain a sense of calm in the midst of all the noise and the pressure?
PM: That’s definitely a big thing I focus on. To keep calm, to keep anxiety levels, nervous levels down, even though it's normal, it's good to have a bit of anxiety and nervousness. But ultimately preparation is the key. If you prepare the right way, personally my nerves aren’t really as strong.
RG: Tell me about the journey from starting off playing soccer here in Richmond, all the way to you being in the MLS.
PM: I remember when we first moved to Richmond and I was really small. My mom saw a sign, when she was driving saying something like “Sign your kid up for Richmond soccer”. And she literally did that for me and my brother. And that's how we started playing.
So we joined Richmond soccer, played that until I was in high school, then I joined Fusion, which is a part of the HPL (pretty much the highest level of local youth soccer in BC). Played that for a few years and then when I was in Grade 12, my U18 year, I joined the Whitecaps academy and worked my way up over the years to finally sign to the first team.
RG: Tell me about some of your inspirations that you looked up to growing up? Did you envision professional soccer being your career?
PM: Of course Messi was my favourite player growing up, still a big inspiration.
I grew up right by a soccer field (Hugh Boyd Park) and I'd always go with my friends. We'd always say “imagine you walk out into the tunnel and see all the lights. You score and you do a big celebration”. So when we were playing against LA a couple of weeks ago, it was one of my first time’s starting with a crowd because of COVID. When I was walking out the tunnel, it was the fireworks, the fence, and it was just a flashback to my dreams growing up as a kid.
RG: Was there a particular turning point where you kind of figured “Wow, I could actually make this into a career professionally”
PM: So before I joined the Whitecaps academy, I was more so looking at where I can go for college? Maybe after that I can go pro. But it wasn't until I joined the Whitecaps academy where I was thinking that making it to the first team is only a couple of steps up from this. I can actually do it if I put in the work and sacrifice but with the support of my parents especially; they helped me a lot.
RG: Your debut for the Whitecaps organization started through their second team but shortly after, that team ended up dissolving. From there you were also still in university, juggling trying to maintain your soccer dream, tell me about that period in your life.
PM: Back in 2017, when I was 18 years old, I signed my first professional contract with the Whitecaps FC2 team (their farm/reserves team). I spent one season with them before it was dissolved. At that same time, I ended up getting a bad back injury with no team to play for. I was just rehabbing for about maybe 9-10 months, all the while I was taking courses with you at UBC (laughs).
That was the hardest point of my career so far, not having a team, thinking “How am I going to make it out of this hole” but it’s literally just belief, support from my family, and just working to get back to full health.
RG: Fast forward to the beginning of 2020, take me through the first few months of you signing to the first team.
PM: So I signed, just before COVID started in January, 2020. It was awesome, not just for me, but for my family and my relatives as well, cause they’ve been supporting me my whole life and throughout my youth career. It was my first game into the season, my first game at BC place where I was on the bench. It was amazing to see a packed stadium with my family in the stands. Couple of days later after that game, that's when the NBA shut down. Everything shut down. I remember we were sitting on our phones waiting to go to training, and we got an email saying our league shut down. Then we all went home and then that was it for months.
RG: Has a lot changed in your day-to-day life since moving up to the first team?
PM: Not too much I would say. I still live at home currently but I’m moving out this week. I've been fortunate to live at this home and save up quite a bit of money (laughs). I guess a big change is doing some more interviews and media. Definitely a bit more stress and anxiety from knowing it's a business now you know? It's not just playing youth soccer to develop. Obviously now there's money on the line, jobs on the line. But being in my second year now I’ve learned to deal with that kind of pressure a lot better.
RG: Growing up in Vancouver (particularly in Steveston) looking back and presently, how has your community impacted you?
PM: Living in Steveston, I really think of myself as a hometown kid. I'm one of three players in the roster that are from BC. I love spending time here. It’s more peaceful here in Richmond than it is downtown where a lot of my teammates live, so it's nice to relax and hang out with my family, wind down, and go for walks around here - get the noise out of my head.
RG: What does it mean to you, being of Filipino heritage, representing your culture on such a big stage of the MLS?
PM: It means a lot. I know the Filipino community here in Vancouver is pretty big. I get a lot of messages from Filipino supporters on Instagram and social media. It’s really nice to see how supportive the community is for one of their own and to represent them means the world to me.
RG: When you're having an off day, what do you do to pick yourself up and get back on track?
PM: Honestly, I usually spend it by myself, but I'm trying to get out of that routine because if I'm by myself on a bad day, I'm just overthinking the thoughts in my head. Talking to my parents and my friends helps a lot. Opening up and talking to people really is key for me.
RG: A lot of jobs tend to just last for that segment of the day like a 9-5 but in your case it really doesn’t stop. You get a lot of pressure from the media, a lot of different voices and opinions especially through social media. How do you drown out all that noise and stay in a focused mindset?
PM: That’s one thing I've started to realize more (about people’s opinions). You know, before I was a professional athlete, I always thought that people hating on you on social media, it's cool. It's a good thing. Why should you be offended by it? Now being in that position I can see why celebrities get depression; it’s tough. But I think after a while you kind of get used to it. Also trying to stay off social media helps.
RG: We always talk about how fast time goes by in life. How do you put yourself in a mindset where you live in the present and soak in the moments that you experience?
PM: My dad pretty much tells me every day “Go out there and enjoy it. You know, you're going to look back and wish you're in that spot again”. I think with all the stress and anxiety that comes from this career; at the end of the day you're getting paid to do what you love. You have to really live in the moment and appreciate what you have right now.
RG: Anything you would want to say to a younger Patrick?
PM: To have that self-belief and the mentality is the most important thing and honestly the cliché: hard work always beats talent.
RG: I have a couple fun questions. If you’re up for it!
PM: Of course let’s go!
RG: Tell me about when we were in high school and you were playing FIFA everyday. I remember you were really into the trading card packs in the game.
PM: I’d come home, then there's the thing on FIFA. You can pay real money to open trading card packs. It’s kind of gambling (laughs). You can see if you got a good player, you can sell them or make a crazy team. Honestly, there's a lot of guys that still do that, on my team. It's fun!
RG: Have you ever gotten a pack and you were in it?
No, but my friend did (laughs). And then he sent me a photo. He was like “Oh my God. I didn't know. You're in FIFA. That's crazy”.
RG: Do you have any pre game rituals?
PM: The only thing I can think of is anytime I walk on, over the white line on the field, whether for a game or training, I always do it with my right foot now. Don’t really know why, I’m just doing it.
RG: Any shows you're really into right now?
PM: I was watching Outer Banks. It’s like really bad acting, but it's good (laughs). And gonna start watching Squid Game
RG: Favourite Filipino dish?
PM: Leche flan for sure.
RG: That's a deep cut. Good choice!