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Halifax Wanderers 2023 Squad Preview

Updated: Mar 24

Here we go again, then.

After a soggy, sodden autumn and a half-baked, half-assed winter, spring – and the start of a new Canadian Premier League season – is tooting its horn and rattling down the tracks.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends; once more.

So, where do we find ourselves a few weeks out from the first game of 2023? From a Halifax Wanderers perspective at least, we find ourselves somewhere new; new head-coach, new energy, and a lot of new players.


Previously, a cursory glance at the training pictures posted on social media would allow us to subconsciously absorb every player on the screen in about 0.5s. This off-season though, there’s a little more second-guessing.

That big Canadian-Brazilian lad up front – you know, the one with the quiet demeanor of a trusted henchman – what’s his name again? Oh, and how about that one - the chap with the ironed-on beard and aristocratic eyebrows - is he the guy from Whitecaps?

And so on.

The following is an attempt to demystify these players by summarizing their qualities, potential limitations, and the roles they’ll play in a Halifax Wanderers shirt. It won’t touch on the change of head-coach – for that, you can read my interview with Patrice Gheisar – but will instead focus solely on the players.

Something worth remembering before we begin: while the players will be discussed in terms of their positions, the idea of a position can often be a red herring. Focus instead on a player's role, because the location of their little head on a pre-match starting XI graphic isn't as important as what they actually do.

Take a left-winger for example. Is he a left-winger who plays on the exterior and looks to whip crosses in? Is he a right footed left-winger who inverts and plays in the half-space? Is he a left-sided winger-cum-striker who makes twenty diagonal runs into the box per-match? Or is he an off-the-ball, stabilising left-winger whose job it is to diligently stay wide, making the pitch as big as possible, and selflessly opening up central spaces in the process? All of these players are positionally left-wingers, but they’re all playing very different roles.

Which is all to say, this stuff is semantics. Because the game is the game and will be ever thus.

And really, if Andre Rampersad hoists the plate above his head beneath a sea of navy confetti on October 28, will we really care about any of this? Will we fuck.


Yann Fillion’s a big lad, isn’t he? Christ. I had a mate in high-school who had outrageously long arms and when he hugged you he could extend his arms in a manner that essentially allowed him to also hug himself. If the eye-test from open training was anything to go by, Yann’s got a bit of that in him too.

Judging goalkeepers is something I find really difficult. I tend to rate them based on how they make me feel. A 10/10 goalkeeping performance for me is when I walk out the stadium without having a clue who played in goal. Just be calm, be safe, and please, for the love of Luis Alberto Perea, do not chuck one in your own net.

One point I will make though: a 2023 Halifax Wanderers goalkeeper is going to have to be fairly decent with his feet. We're not talking Ederson-levels of footwork, but he’s going to be at the tip of passing triangles with his centre-backs and full-backs and therefore a level of competency is required.

Fortunately, the CPL isn’t a press-y league. For one, it’s too hot in the summer months to aggressively close down goalkeepers and defenders for 90 minutes. Second, many players at this level aren’t good enough to nail an air-tight high-press 9 times out of 10, so coaches tend to focus instead on pressing deeper areas of the pitch. All of which is good news for CPL goalkeepers, who can flourish without ever having to be more than adequate with their feet.

Deputising for Yann will likely be U-SPORT pick Aiden Rushenas who I once, distressingly, saw wearing an Everton jacket. Make of that what you will.


First, the returnees.

Expect Mohamed Omar (CB) to establish a leadership role within the group this season. After a stop-start 2022 due to injuries, the former MLS SuperDraft pick will likely anchor the Halifax back 2… or back 3… or… well, yeah. Whatever it is, he’ll be there.

Centre-back is probably Mo’s best position. Watching him in midfield last season, I often felt he would be more comfortable in areas of the pitch where the game happened in front of him rather than all around him, so playing him as the middle centre-back and tasking him with building play and organizing a defence suits his skillset.

He’s a highly technical defender (highly technical players are a theme of this piece) with a beautiful left foot. The progress I’d like to see Omar make is to really embrace the contradictory qualities in his game: you want to see him aggressive and snappy in defensive duals, while being calm, cultured, and classy on the ball. It’s this tension in styles that defines him as a player.

Another potential starter at centre-back is Cristian Campagna (CB). Getting Campagna on board towards the end of last season was a real get for the Halifax recruitment team, likely beating a number of suitors who were lined up to sign him themselves during this off-season.

He’s another highly technical player (drink!) who will help us build through the thirds from deep.

Pay attention to how two-footed he is as a passer, too. He’s someone who will allow us to recycle the ball in deep areas, waiting for holes to open up in the opposition press. He’s young so there’ll be mistakes along the way, especially as he’s a ball-playing centre-back, but his upside is very high.

Next up we have the floppy-haired, elfin charm of Jake Ruby (RB/CB). Underrated to the point that it's now a cliché (and thus meaning he’s now… rated), the 22-year-old has been excellent since joining Halifax in 2020.

I like everything about him, truth be told. He’s solid, he’s calm, he’s positionally smart, and – endearingly - he appears to have absolutely no interest whatsoever in promoting himself on social media. Honestly, he must be the only player in Halifax Wanderers history who has never posted an Instagram story of his legs encased in those chunky, black recovery trousers. Remarkable, really.

On the pitch, he can fulfill a number of roles such as a right centre-back who steps into midfield to build, a stabilising right-back, or an inverted left-back. In a league where versatility is a superpower, Ruby thrives.

The final defensive returnee is Zachary Fernandez (RB). The 21-year-old started last season with some eye-catching performances at right-back. There was perhaps an element of a poor left side making the right side look good, but it was hard to miss the qualities he brought to the team. He’s tireless, Fernandez; a direct, attack-minded sprinter who looks to exploit right sided overloads for cut-backs and crosses. He’s also – touch wood – pretty injury-resistant, too.

Head-coach Patrice Gheisar has talked previously about Fernandez developing into a Dani Alves-type full-back, so expect to see him utilized primarily in attacking phases in 2023, where he’ll look to build a good partnership with an inverted right-sided attacker, say Wesley Timoteo, who can drive inside creating space on the exterior for Fernandez to run in to.

A pair of new recruits make up Halifax’s left-back options for 2023 but before we get to them, a quick look at what the left-back in a Patrice Gheiser team might look like.

A more traditional left-back holds the width and looks to overlap and provide crosses in attacking phases, before tucking in alongside his centre-backs in defensive phases (rule of thumb: when you attack, you want your players to expand and make the pitch as big as possible. When you defend, you want your players to tuck in and limit space centrally. Think of a team’s shape being like an accordion that expands and contracts depending on if it’s attacking or defending).

A Patrice Gheiser left-back however, does something a little different. For Vaughan and Seneca, his left-back would tuck in alongside the #6 to form a double pivot and create central overloads. With the two #8s ahead and the #6 and the left-back sitting deep, Patrice’s teams would look to form a central ‘box’ which helped them to dominate possession and be counter-attack-secure.

That isn’t to say he’ll play this way in Halifax. At a recent open training session, build-up drills were often delivered using Lorenzo Callegari and Tomas Giraldo – both midfielders – in those double-pivot positions, not the left-back. But it’s still a useful lens through which to look at the qualities of Ryan James and Riley Ferrazzo.

Ryan James (LB/CB/CM) is an excellent signing for Halifax in a position that’s always felt a little weak.

We’ve had some honest-to-God triers, such as Alex De Carolis (East Coast Maldini!) and Colin Gander. Some hopeful punts, such as Obeng Tabi. Some repurposed right-backs in Jake Ruby and Mateo Restrepo. And one hubristic man-child with the self-awareness of a golf ball in Ndemzela Langwa, who, rather bafflingly, could never figure out why another CPL club wouldn’t take a chance on him.

Enter then, something completely and refreshingly different: Ryan James.

James is a Marcelo-y, dual-role left-back who brings USL experience, leadership (at 28 he’s the senior member of the squad), calmness and – again – a high technical level (drink! drink! drink!).

James has played previously as a central midfielder too, so being asked to tuck in alongside the #6 won’t be a problem. Pleasingly, he’s also a very good overlapping left-back which will allow the coaching staff to switch between looks depending on the opposition and game state.

Riley Ferrazzo (LB) is another who is at ease fluctuating between being a left-back and part of a double pivot, after playing that exact role for Patrice Gheisar’s Vaughan last season.

Ferrazzo is a product of the Toronto academy. He’s relatively slight, but not in a way that diminishes him. He uses his frame to glide across the pitch, playing one/two touch passes with whichever teammate he finds himself in the vicinity of. If he has one superpower, it’s this: the ability to sniff out exactly where he needs to be on the pitch to be the release valve and free man for under pressure teammates. He’s a real player’s player, Ferrazzo.

Rounding out the defensive unit are two newcomers: Daniel Nimick and Cale Loughrey.

Daniel Nimick (CB/RB) is a very interesting player. Every off-season you hear the same one or two names floating around when you ask people close to training who's looking good. This season, Daniel Nimick has been an ever-present in those conversations. There are a lot of people at the club who are very excited about this player.

Daniel Nimick

Nimick is a powerful, right-sided defender who will play as a centre-back for Halifax, but who also profiles quite nicely as a modern, physical right-back (think Ben White for Arsenal). He’s good at defending space, reading the game, and driving into midfield to build play. He isn’t shy of scoring either, with a rather astounding 12 goals and 7 assists during his college career.

He’s proper Yorkshire, too.

The final centre-back option is Cale Loughrey (CB). The 21-year-old is a tall, robust defender with experience at Forge and Edmonton. He’s the type of player you could easily misread, one who’s physicality suggests certain stylistic buzz words (big / strong / aggressive), but who’s better on the ball than you probably realise.

He played as central midfielder in NCAA, so he has previous in tight areas of the pitch with high technical (driiiiiiiiink) requirements, and his left foot has a beautiful range of passes in it.


Let’s start with shape.

Realistically, we’re going to play games with a #6 and two #8s (or #10s, depending on how you read the game). The #6 will be part of the defensive unit. He’ll gather the ball from deep, and try to punch passes between the lines or recycle possession into wide areas. He’ll also look to screen counter-attacks, block off passing lanes, and dictate tempo.

The #8s will look to play between the lines in advanced areas and half-spaces, while providing service for the wingers and striker. In terms of end product, they’ll collapse into the box if gaps appear, and look to contribute a healthy goalscoring return, too.

Broad strokes, yes. But a helpful way of framing the discussion around our 2023 midfielders before we talk personnel.

Lorenzo Callegari (CM #6) is the biggest head-turner of the new signings. Diminutive with a Parisian scowl, Callegari has the CV of a CPL marketer’s dreams.

Watching him shuffle and jink around the pitch during the recent open training session was slightly surreal, especially as I’d spent the evening prior ogling at him in action for PSG during the 2017 pre-season versus a Real Madrid team that featured Luka Modric, Marcelo, and Toni Kroos.

Lorenzo Callegari

And now here he was stroking pass after pass across the greenery of Halifax’s BMO Soccer Centre.

Something else struck me as I watched him during that training session: he isn’t here to fuck about. There was a seriousness with which he did his work. It settled any lingering doubts I’d had about the mindset he’d arrive in Canada with.

This is clearly a player looking to reignite his career, and hopefully Halifax can help him do this.

Either way, I don’t see many scenarios in which he’s a Wanderers player in 2024. If he plays at the level his background suggests he’s at, he’ll be snapped up by an MLS side very quickly. Alternatively, if he plays at the level of an average CPL player, he won’t justify the significant wedge of salary cap he’s likely taking up. So let’s enjoy him while we can.

Stylistically, he’s every inch the small, highly technical (you know what to do) deep-lying playmaker. He’ll receive short passes from his defenders and then he’ll prod, he’ll probe, he’ll punch it between the lines, he’ll drift it diagonally into the wingers, and he’ll loft it over the top.

Bienvenu, Lorenzo. Bienvenu.

Understudy to the Frenchman will be another player who has impressed during the off-season, Tomas Giraldo (CM #6). Had he not suffered injuries at inopportune times, the Colombian would have likely already moved beyond the level of CPL and be plying his trade in MLS. The fact that he earned a pro-contract with Montreal before said-injuries is proof of this.

Further up the pitch, the two starting #8s will likely be Andre Rampersad and Aiden Daniels.

Andre Rampersad (CM #8) has long desired a more offensive role for Halifax. Last season, even as he thrived as a #6, he was pretty open about wanting to play closer to the opposition goal, and under Patrice Gheisar he’s likely to get his wish.

I’m curious to see him given a chance in this role. He played as a #10 early on his Halifax Wanderers career, but it’s a different Andre Rampersad now. The captain has matured positionally and his technical level has gone up.

How he takes to the off-the-ball aspects of an #8's game – drifting between the lines, picking up pockets of space – is what interests me the most. How are his instincts? How apt is he at sniffing out when to make runs into the box? How will his combination play be with the other attacking players? Can that small-space play as a #6 translate when his passing option might need to be an eye-of-the-needle assist rather than a safe ball to his full-back?

As most of you well know, Andre Rampersad has long been my favourite Halifax player, so I fully expect him to flourish. But these are questions I'm intriuged to find the answers to.

Aidan Daniels (CM #8, LW), then. Where to start? I spent last year’s off-season giddily drooling over him with all the chill of a McDonalds Apple Pie. On paper, he has it all. TFC academy. A bunch of USL appearances. A wonderfully creative, dribble-y type with all sorts of goals in his feet.

He’s going to dominate this league, I thought. And then…. he didn’t.

The reasons for this are unclear, but I suspect it was a case of not really knowing his role in the team. As a coach, Stephen Hart offers a lot of creative licence to his attacking players. His M.O is structural solidity in defence and creative freedom for his attackers. It’s a romantic, idealistic way of looking at football, but it’s also not particularly suited to the modern game.

Players such as Aidan Daniels have grown up learning systems, positional play, and with having a clearly defined role on the pitch. A coach like Patrice is much more suited to a player like him.

The fact that he’s taken the no.10 shirt from Joao Morelli is positive. That tells me he’s approaching this season with a determined, serious attitude. I’m looking forward to being proved absolutely correct on my early assessment of him, a year later than planned.

The understudies – and, if they have their way, the eventual starters – for the midfield positions are Arman Wilson and Callum Watson.

Arman Wilson (CM #8, #6) – whose first name I realised during a recording of the Down the Podcast that I pronounce as Our Man (Blimey old chap, if it isn’t OUR MAN WILSON at the door!) – is stylistically analogous with Andre Rampersad.

Our Man

He’s 6’3 and armed with all the technical tools a modern footballer needs. He can pass short and long, he can effortlessly cover ground, he can get a foot in and win his battles. He really does have it all.

The test for him well be how well he adapts to being a professional. Will he eat right? Will he get enough sleep? Will he approach his work with a focus, day in day out? These are the factors that either elevate a player’s talent or pour cold water over it. I certainly hope it’s the former for Our Man Wilson.

Last but certainly not least, is Callum Watson (CM #8). The Arsenal-supporting-Brit is the very definition of a post-2000s English midfielder.

While players of this ilk were once defined by their canny ability to absolutely smash the fuck out of their opponents, the influx of debonair, ball-playing foreigners to the English Premier League changed the development of the next generation of midfielders. A player like Callum Watson is a reflection of this.

He’s got that bite, obviously. You can see his loves to get stuck in. But he’s a ball player too, one who’s very proactive in his passing, preferring to move things forward rather than playing it safe. You can imagine him operating as a very aggressive, very press-heavy #10 in Patrice’s system. A player who will look to win the ball back high up the pitch and penetrate the space behind the opposition centre-backs.

It helps that he’s an Arsenal fan, too.


Halifax’s front line is the most difficult area of the pitch to get a clear read on. The short-term, maybe long-term, maybe forever absence of Joao Morelli casts a shadow, but it’s one we’ve all grown accustomed to given the length of time he's been away from the club.

For whatever it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that he’s done. He works for his family’s company in Brazil, he recently got married and has a baby on the way, and if his Instagram is anything to by, his day-to-day existence consists of sipping ice cold beers on the beach in the sun. Who can blame him?

Credit: Joao Morelli's Instagram

The most I hope for is that he’s able to fly out to Halifax one weekend to say goodbye, as there are 6,500 of us who would love the chance to give him the send-off he deserves. He’s the best we’ve had. I’d like the chance to thank him.

Moving on to the personnel we definitely will have at our disposal in 2023, it feels as though playing with a front three makes the most sense.

There’ll be a focal-point #9 who’ll stay central, play with his back to goal, drop in off the shoulder, and look to hustle space for the wide-forwards.

Either side of him will be attacking wide players. I’m loathe to say ‘wingers’, because I’m not sure that’s what they are, at least not in the traditional sense. They’re more inverted forwards who'll look to shift the ball inwards onto their stronger foot and build angles from there.

I suspect the starting players in these wide positions will be Massimo Ferrin on the left (a righty) and Wesley Timoteo on the right (a lefty).

Massimo Ferrin (LW, ST) has been highly thought of throughout the CPL for several years now. That he hasn’t made an appearance in this league to date has nothing to do with his abilities as a player.

Ferrin is another former Vaughanite who Patrice knows very well. Watching matches of his last season, he seemed to spend off-the-ball phases high, wide and left, before making darting, diagonal runs into the interior to link with the #9 and create triangles with the left #8. That he has ready-made partnerships with Kwosi Nwarfonso (more on him soon) and Riley Ferrazzo is promising.

A quick glance at some footage of him in college shows he can also play centrally as a #9, which increases his value in the squad.

He’s a player the club have very high hopes for in 2023.

Challenging Massimo Ferrin for a place on the left side of Halifax’s attack will be Fumpa Mwandwe (LW/RW). The Englishman was the buzzing, pulsing spark the team needed in the weeks after his arrival last summer. He was fast, direct, and aggressive. He also had a knack for finding himself in excellent goalscoring positions. The actual scoring part though? Not so much.

Regardless, having a player with his stylistic profile in the group will be important. While the recruitment has focused on bringing in technical, possession-based players, there will be game states where something a little more dynamic and thrusting is required. Enter: Fumpa.

On the right side of Halifax’s attack will be a player already known around the league, Wesley Timoteo (RW/LW/LB). I was incredibly keen on bringing Timoteo - who has the sleepy-eyed air of a much-loved, much-spoilt family pet - back to the squad this season after a fantastic year in Edmonton. Despite playing on the worst team in the league, he still ended the season with an impressive nine goal contributions.

Timoteo - in action for Edmonton - turning out at Wanderers Grounds last season

His qualities lie in his feet and between his ears. He’s a good passer, a good dribbler, a good finisher, and an excellent set-piece taker. The latter of which is an area we’ve often struggled in. Football is a low scoring game, so a marginal gain such as an aptitude for corners and free-kicks will earn a team points over the course of a season.

Look for Timoteo to mirror Ferrin’s role on the opposite of the pitch. He’ll start wide and then invert, collapse into the box, and deliver end product.

The three contenders to be Halifax’s #9 are Theo Collomb, Tiago Coimbra, and Kosi Nwafornso.

There’s something slightly aristocratic-looking about Theo Collomb (ST). Sharp features, up-turned eyebrows. He leaves you with the distinct impression that at some point in his family’s history he’s been on course to inherit large swathes of European land.

Count Collomb

Until that day arrives however, he’s a contender to be Halifax’s starting #9.

Collomb brings a busy, bustling interpretation to the role of striker. A more underrated aspected of his game is the work he does with his back to goal; his range of wall passes is vast, his ability to back his ass into a defender's midriff to protect the ball is reminiscent of prime-Akeem, and he scores goals, too. A lot of them.

He’s a very Patrice-y type of player, in the sense that at his core he’s happiest linking up with his teammates. This is the foundation the new Wanderers coach is building. A team ID. No individuals, no stars. Just a group of young men emitting synaptic sparks within one brain.

Another attacker who has impressed during pre-season is Tiago Coimbra (ST). The Canadian-Brazilian already has a hat-trick to his name in a pre-season friendly, and has turned heads in training. All of which should be no surprise given the club he arrived from.

Palmeiras are one of the top teams in Brazil. To be able to hang with the players in their academy, like Coimbra did, is nothing to sniff at. This is an academy which recently produced Endrick – a 16 year old on his way to Real Madrid for $70 million next summer.

From a style perspective, Coimbra is a big, meaty forward. He’ll play as a focal point, a real #9, a player who loves, loves, loves to score goals. He’s young – still only 19 – but physically he’s a man already. Patience will be needed as the rawness is ironed out, but there really is a huge potential upside to this player. He’s one to watch.

The last of the options at centre-forward is Kosi Nwafornso (ST). Another former Vaugan player, the Nigerian is fast, physical striker. He scored a lot – a loooot – of goals in L1O last season, far surpassing one per game. The range of finishes on display were particularly impressive. He can drill it, dink it, slide it, and smash it.

Expect him to reignite his partnership with Massimo Ferrin on the left. The two linked up effectively last season, and it can’t be overstated how important partnerships between players are, especially within a group that’s largely comprised of new players.

A quick note, before we end things, on Kimani Stewart-Baynes. The 17-year-old has joined the squad on a development contract after committing to NCAA powerhouse University of Maryland.

While only eligible for six games this season, I suspect he’ll make a pretty significant impact when he does appear. Noises coming out from the club suggest that he’s a player with a bright, bright future in the Canadian game. Let’s look forward to the day we can proudly say that we-saw-him-way-back-when.

Predicted Starting XI


Gary is an Arsenal supporting, Halifax-based Brit who moved to Canada in 2016 unaware that he was about to fall in love with another football team. He can be found on on Twitter at @FromAwaysHFX. He also guests on the Down the Pub Podcast - a CPL/Halifax Wanderers-focused podcast - alongside Anthony Abbot.

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