Jacob Shaffelburg is taking the professional soccer world by storm.
Already entering professional soccer with high expectations on him, the left-footed winger from Port Williams exceeded those in his debut home game, where he was instrumental in Toronto FC scoring the fastest goal in the team’s history.
At the 29-second mark, Shaffelburg proved his playmaking prowess with an assist.
“I crossed it over and it got deflected,” the 19-year-old said in a recent phone interview.
His teammate took that deflected shot and put it in the net a mere moment later.
“Knowing I helped score that goal was a big confidence booster going into my first game, with a lot of people not knowing who I am,” Shaffelburg said.
“It was good to get them on my back that early – it definitely was a very special moment.”
“I was waiting for this week and looking forward to it and working for it since January,” he added. “I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to come this quick, so I grabbed a hold of it and made the most of it.”
It has been an exciting season so far. That excitement, he admitted, came on the back of some mild nervousness in his first minutes in major league Eastern Conference play.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking at first, playing at the highest level of soccer,” Shaffelburg said. “I knew I had to perform.
“There’s a lot of pressure to perform, every time you go on but, at the same time, it’s a good pressure.”
That pressure, along with his triumphant early assist, were instrumental in helping him build confidence on the field with his teammates.
Shaffelburg, known for his exceptional speed on the field, said his talent is proving to be a great asset as he finds his groove with the Toronto FC.
“(My speed) has helped me out quite a bit, using my pace to my advantage,” he said. “It helps building confidence, knowing I can keep up in this league and do alright.”
Training at the professional level is similar to what he’s already done – only more intense.
“The level is much higher. I’m handling it well now, so it’s going really good,” Shaffelburg said.
“Our feet haven’t touched the ground yet,” said Shaffelburg’s mother, Linda, describing the elation and pride she and her husband, Mike, feel seeing their son’s success unfold on the field.
Linda described the experience of watching her son play at a professional level as surreal.
“That’s a word we’ve actually been using a lot.”
“Mike and I were at the game when Jacob made his home debut game, and it was an incredible evening. We couldn’t have scripted it any better – it was perfect weather, it was a perfect crowd and we were just so fortunate to have been there for that,” she said.
“It’s crazy, the support we’ve had from home, with people reaching out. It’s overwhelming and wonderful.”
Soccer runs in the Shaffelburg family.
“We’ve all been pretty heavily into soccer,” said Linda.
“Jacob was pretty much playing from day one with his older brother (Zach) and sister (Jessica). They played together growing up.”
Shaffelburg’s path to success, according to his mother, “has been one step at a time.”
“We didn’t set him on the path for this particular thing. That kind of happened. We just gave him opportunities and he made the most of them,” Linda said. “He just enjoyed and enjoys playing He’s left-footed and the other two are right-footed, so that’s something that was different. He’s fast, but that came later. He came into his speed when he was probably 15.”
She attributed a lot of her son’s natural athleticism to the fact that soccer is not the only sport he has played.
Shaffelburg has also participated in track events and plays squash, a mix of training his mother described as “a key piece” to the pace that gives him an edge on the pitch.
“Being multi-sport is a good cardio base, using different muscles, so you’re not constantly using the same ones for a particular sport,” Linda said. “It’s good for the body.”
She’s watched him advance from local play, to Berkshire in the United States, the Canada Games and, most recently, with the Toronto FC.
“It’s always so interesting to see his style in a new venue and see that he is able to enjoy it.”