• 2019 CPL Record (W-D-L): 6-10-12 (7th)
  • Goals scored: 21
  • Goals against: 35
  • Goal Difference: -14
  • Top scorer: Akeem Garcia (11)
HFX Wanderers FC were supposed to use 2020 as a rebuilding year. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach Stephen Hart has been forced to fast rack that process, with The Island Games offering him less time to improve and shape a brand new group of players into a cohesive team. The Wanderers completely remade their squad this winter, electing to keep just six of the 23-odd players from 2019. Big off-season additions such as Jamaican international Alex Marshall and Brazilian Joao Morelli will look to prop up the Wanderers’ crop of domestic players, which includes ex-Montreal Impact additions Daniel Kinumbe and Aboubacar Sissoko. On its face, this Wanderers group is an impressive one – especially considering last year’s wooden-spoon worthy record – but will it be enough to challenge for a final four spot? That’s a difficult prediction to make, especially as the CPL’s best teams have also grown year-over-year. But there are some major positives worth highlighting with this group. Here's how HFX might line up.

Jason Beaulieu While Christian Oxner will certainly see the field in Prince Edward Island, former Montreal Impact netminder Jason Beaulieu is the Wanderers’ No. 1. That may upset a few Haligonians, but expect Oxner to slot behind the more experienced French-Canadian ‘keeper.

Daniel Kinumbe, Peter Schaale, Jems Geffrard, Mateo Restrepo Hart’s new-look outfield starts at the back with just one returnee making this projected best XI. Wanderers cult hero Peter Schaale should be the first name on Hart’s team sheet since returning from Cape Breton University. He's a CPL and Wanderers Grounds veteran at this point, so we’re expecting the German to play the majority of matches. Former Valour target Jems Geffrard appears as Hart’s first-choice on the left-side of centre half, especially after Brazilian centre back Erik Santos was unable to get to Halifax due to border restrictions. Daniel Kinumbe is selected over Alex De Carolis who, if we’re being honest, will likely split playing time with Kinumbe on the left of defence. A speedier, more forward-thinking selection at fullback, the ex-Impact newcomer will drive forward and create chances on the overlap. There are similar expectations of Mateo Restrepo, who makes the professional jump from NCAA as a dependable right-sided wide player.

Cory Bent, Andre Rampersad, João Morelli, Louis Béland-Goyette, Alex Marshall Starting on the wing, CPL-USPORTS Draft first overall pick Cory Bent is a scary, under-the-radar attack option for HFX. Quick, shifty, and creative, Bent made a name for himself with the Cape Breton Capers as a winger capable of drawing midfielders out of position. On the other wing, Alex Marshall cuts an even more impressive figure. Double-digit caps for Jamaica, a proven goal scorer, and a well-documented work rate; Marshall could be the best player on the Wanderers. Both wingers are set to thrive in Hart’s wide play system – the same way Mo Kourouma and Akeem Garcia did in 2019. Two familiar names make up this projected pivot: Andre Rampersad and Louis Beland-Goyette. Proven midfield operators for the Wanderers and Valour FC last season, they both bring a level of industry and box-to-box flexibility that will be fascinating to see in action. Finally, in the middle, is Halifax’s Brazilian crown jewel: João Morelli. Shifty and quick, look for the former Estonian first division star to roam, pulling defenders out and opening up spaces for his strikers and wingers to exploit. Expect Morelli to play higher up the pitch – even as a second striker – with Halifax’s promising pivot of Rampersad-LBG doing the work behind him.

Akeem Garcia Returnee Akeem Garcia slots in as a lone striker, and will play a bigger role in as the Wanderers coaching staff use the Trinidadian as a back-to-goal link-up striker. Word is they see the 22-year-old as more of a playmaker, combining directly with Bent, Morelli, and Marshall.

Ibra Sanoh, Alessandro Riggi, Aboubacar Sissoko, Omar Kreim, Alex De Carolis, Chrisnovic N’sa, Luke Green, Jake Ruby, Christian Oxner A balanced bench, Halifax’s only shortage comes at forward. Prince Edward Island native Ibra Sanoh is Hart’s lone depth option at striker, though Cory Bent could appear there in a pinch. Aboubacar Sissoko will feature heavily, too, with the U SPORTS Player of the Year being a like-for-like replacement for Beland-Goyette or Rampersad. Elsewhere, expect returnees Alex De Carolis and Chrisnovic N’sa to feature heavily as well – maybe even emerging as first-choice left fullback and centre back, respectively.

With an entirely new team, Hart has been quick to temper expectations for The Island Games, eying a strong 2021 campaign instead. But, you never know – Hart is a talented coach and skilled at mind games. If the Wanderers get a win or two in the first week – against favourites Pacific FC, Forge FC, and Cavalry FC – they would be in great shape for a spot in the second round. Like most things at The Island Games, it’s hard to predict.

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