With the season five-months away, coach Stephen Hart is starting to assemble the first components of his fledgling HFX Wanderers team. To bear witness to the building of a team from scratch is a fascinating and unusual experience. It’s also one that presents many questions. Most pressing of those is where does Hart start? Of the three draft picks and one signing made so far, the Wanderers have found themselves with one goalkeeper and three defenders. Hart, it would seem, is starting with a simple idea: to build from the back.
The nature of the CPL and the profile of player it’s currently able to attract means it’s difficult to find out too much information about the players involved, but here is what we know so far.
Christian Oxner (Goalkeeper)
The twenty-two-year-old Halifax native is well-known to Stephen Hart and Wanderers fans after his scene-stealing penalty save during July’s friendly against Fortuna Dusseldorf. It wasn’t the save alone that caught the eye though, as Oxner produced an accomplished performance that showcased his shot-stopping skills along with a desire to organize his defence from the back. Oxner has recently found himself in goal for Saint Mary’s Huskies where he once again caught the eye of Hart, who had been tracking him since he was a youngster. Being brought up around Clayton Park means Wanderers fans also have their first hometown player to cheer for, something that the club is keen to encourage. Along with the other two draft picks, Oxner will have to prove his worth in February’s trials to nail down a place in the inaugural season’s Wanderers squad.
Here he is talking to the official website about what the move means to him:
Peter Schaale (Defender)
Among footballing circles in Canada, Peter Schaale is a name that has been creating a fair amount of buzz for some time now. Originally from Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, Schaale moved to Nova Scotia after high-school to play for Cape Breton Capers. The move has been an unmitigated success for club and player, and this past season earned Schaale the reward of Most Valuable Player, no easy feat considering he's playing for arguably one of the best teams in the country. The big German is a strong and calming presence at the back. He is excellent at winning aerial duals and organising the defensive line. He also has the technique to play out from the back without panic. Schaale uses his positional intelligence and strength to disrupt attacks and is comfortable playing the ball long or short. He is a classy center half of the modern variety who could turn out to be a major coup for the Wanderers.
Here are some highlights of Schaale in action:
Andre Bona (Defender)
The fifth-year student from UQAM has been quietly impressing for some time now. Speaking to the official website, Bona talked about bringing his ‘speed and quality’ to the defence, two attributes integral to any top-level defender. The twenty-eight-year-old can play at center-back or right-back, and it’s his versatility that most appealed to Hart. Bona is originally from Marseille in France and his addition, alongside Schaale’s, adds a distinctively European flavor to this burgeoning defence.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount of information about his career floating around, so he’s one to keep an eye on in February when the trials begin.
Zachary Sukunda (Full-Back)
In the ever-changing climate of world football, full-backs have, in recent years, become one of the most sought-after positions for coaches. The past ten-years has seen a subtle tactical evolution that has led to full-backs taking on a lot more responsibility than in the past. They are now expected to provide a team’s width going forward and exist in a constant state of both attack and defence, a dizzying job that requires the player to multitask for ninety-minutes. Their importance to Hart is evident in the fact that his first signing is a versatile full-back that can play on the left or right. It was interesting to hear Hart talking about Sukunda’s ‘variation of crosses’, a choice of words that heavily hints towards his attacking plans for Sukunda.
The Ontario native is only twenty-two but has already seen his career take him to Sweden and Australia. This experience in an international environment will bode well for his future development and will also give Hart confidence that he can adapt to a new city. As is evident in the highlight reel below, Sukunda is a technically capable player with good crossing abilities. He looks set to be an excellent first signing for the Wanderers.
That’s all for today. As new signings are announced we'll continue to research and profile them, so you don't have to.
Next week we’ll take a look at Stephan Hart and what the next step in the development of the team could be.