Toronto FC winger Jacob Shaffelburg had just moved into his own place when the COVID-19 lockdown happened.
After completing training camp, Shaffelburg and the MLS club remained in California for the Feb. 29 season opener in San Jose before returning home for the March 7 home debut against New York City FC.
Less than a week later, as Shaffelburg was settling into his new home, the pandemic shut down sports — and a lot else. Suddenly living downtown took a different turn.
“I love it here, but it’s a bit of a bummer that everything’s shut down,” he said, echoing a view held by many.
But the 20-year-old says he is doing fine, thanks in part to his new puppy — a mini-Cockapoo named Frank.
“He’s been keeping me quite the company the last two weeks, which has been nice,” said Shaffelburg.
Still, the recent deadly shooting rampage in rural Nova Scotia — some two hours away from his home of Port Williams — left Shaffelburg shocked and saddened.
He takes solace from how Canadians have reacted in the aftermath, from the CN Tower to Niagara Falls lit up in the blue and white colours of the Nova Scotia flag.
“It was nice to see that. It was heart-warming,” he said.
He also appreciated teammates reaching to make sure he and his family were OK.
The young midfielder has been doing his best to stay active, participating in video workouts with teammates and going for morning runs outdoors. But as far as ball work is concerned, he is pretty much restricted to doing it around the house.
“It’s tough to find a spot (outdoors),” he said.
That may change soon. MLS has OK’d individual player workouts outdoors at team training facilities, although the protocol for making it happen is complicated.
He took full advantage of the glorious weather in Toronto last Sunday, taking Frank out for an extended outing in the sun.
“I got pretty burned, but it was worth it,” he said
Food is not an issue, given the team is delivering two meals a day for six days of the week.
“The meals have been amazing,” he said.
Shaffelburg has been working on his kitchen skills with weekly cooking classes with his family back home in Nova Scotia. Every Tuesday, his family and friends connect on a Zoom call “and we all learn how to cook something new.”
This week’s dish was chicken Pad Thai.
“I’m decent. I’m getting better,” he said. “This has been a good time for me (for cooking). I’ve been learning more stuff, which has been really nice.”
He is working on building up his collection of spices.
As for TV, he just finished watching “Outer Banks” and is caught up on “The Last Dance,” both on Netflix.
A pacey winger who likes to run at defenders, Shaffelburg made 10 appearances last season and started the season opener this season against the Earthquakes.
He signed with the first team last June after working his way up the academy ranks. He attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts, where Toronto rookie Ifunanyachi Achara was captain during Shaffelburg’s freshman year.
The 22-year-old Achara turned heads at Toronto’s training camp and was rewarded with a start in the home opener.
“He knows what he wants. A really good guy, as well,” said Shaffelburg.