It's the end of the week, and time to welcome you to the first edition of our weekly roundup of HFX Wanderers news.
Every Friday, as the clock counts down to the start of the season, and an already busy news cycle gets even busier, we will attempt to collect the takeaway items from each week and present them in an easily-digestible package. From new signings to major (MAJOR!) announcements, all the Wanderers-related news you need will be found here.
So, without further ado, here is the week that was February 9 – February 15, 2019.
Before we get to the controversy, I think it’s important to bask in the glow of something else: we now know the time and date of the first ever (announced) HFX Wanderers match. Despite the season being under three-months away, it was still a little difficult to fully accept that professional football would be played on our doorstep before the summer. Having a definite date in the diary (May 15th in Vaughan, May 22nd in Halifax) makes this all a little realer, somehow.
As more matches are announced and we get the full league schedule, I expect this match to take on less and less significance in the minds of Wanderers fans. But you never forget your first, do you.
FC Vaughan vs. HFX Wanderers FC. Get in.
On the pitch, Wanderers’ side of the drawer is an interesting one that includes the tantalizing possibility of a semi-final with Toronto FC. To get there, Hart’s men must beat League 1 Ontario’s FC Vaughan, before negotiating ties with Valour FC and USL’s Ottawa Fury. The match with Fury, in particular, is likely to spike the curiosity of many casual observers. It will be the first time a CanPL team has taken on a team from USL, and it’s an occasion with added significance given Fury spurned the league’s advances to be the eighth founding member.
To see the rest of the draw, click here.
Well, that was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it?
On Monday, CONCACAF announced that the CONCACAF League (a preliminary league with the reward of qualification to the CONCACAF Champions League for its top six teams) would be expanding from 16 to 22 teams, and that one of those spots would be awarded to a CanPL team.
Speculation abounded over how the league would award the spot available to them. My early guess was that if the league was to go ahead with an Apertura/Clausura structure (more on that later, if and when it’s confirmed as the league’s format of choice), then it would make sense to award the winner of Apertura, or Opening, a spot in the tournament. If the timing of this wouldn’t work, others suggested the league announce that whoever is top of the pile after a certain amount of games should be granted the spot instead. Both perfectly reasonable propositions. Both fair.
What was soon revealed to be the stipulation for qualifying for the CONCACAF League wasn’t quite in keeping with these attempts at fairness. Announced quietly, late on Tuesday evening (they knew, they bloody knew), Canada Soccer confirmed that the spot in the CONCACAF League would go to the winner of an in-league round-robin between FC Edmonton, Forge FC and Valour FC.
The roaring, thundering shit-storm of protestations and damnations should probably tell Canada Soccer that they got this a little bit wrong.
Their justification of the decision was that the three eligible clubs were the founding members of the league and therefore entitled to certain advantages the next four clubs to commit weren’t. This rationale had already been used to justify the same three having first-round byes in the Voyageurs Cup, and it was one that, despite maybe being a little unfair, I was completely fine with. After all, it meant more home matches to go to should Wanderers advance. Others weren’t so forgiving though.
Which begs the question: why, if Canada Soccer had seen the reaction to this, did they repeat their mistake? It brings to mind the misattributed Einstein quote about how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.
One possible reason is that Canada Soccer, to encourage teams to commit to forming the league, promised certain sweeteners for the early members. Another could be that they really do believe FC Edmonton, Forge FC and Valour FC are more equipped to deal with being thrust into continental football and therefore the only logical choices. The reality though, is probably far simpler: Canada Soccer, the drunk, oblivious uncle that belches at funerals, really can’t read a room.
Someone who won’t be too concerned with the announcement is the person in charge of HFX Wanderers’ financial accounts. During these fledging years as a club, money will be tight, purse-strings tightened, and any unnecessary expenses curtailed. So really, and I’m aware of how unromantic this sounds from a sporting perspective, how much wisdom is there in spending a chunk of the budget on flying everyone down into Central America for these matches?
In the months to come, as the sting of injustice dulls, I have a feeling that this decision, which right now feels biased and unfair, will come to resemble a bullet dodged.
After the Q&A with David Clannachan at Niche last week, I asked the boss if he’d mind doing an interview for the blog. Kindly, he agreed.
The main takeaways from the interview are as follows:
· He’s happy with where the club is in terms of the progress that's been up to now
· The training camp will begin on March 1st and feature a lot of ball work, not just old-school fitness work.
· Signing players who have previously played with each other is a deliberate move. Teammates with existing relationships have a bigger chance of gelling, on and off the pitch.
· The Caribbean is a good market for players, and one he still has his eyes on.
· He has priorotised signing players who are comfortable in possession. This will allow the team to control games.
· The possibility of us one day seeing Dwight York at the Wanderers Grounds wasn't ruled out. Not completely, anyway.
On Wednesday, one of Kodai Iida’s former clubs tweeted out a congratulatory message to the Japanese attacker, wishing him well on his move to HFX Wanderers. As the news began to circulate, the post was swiftly deleted and consigned to the great tweet-heap in the sky. It’s spirit lives on though, in this Reddit thread.
For those unfamiliar with Kodai Iida, he’s an attacking midfielder from Japan who has spent the last few years of his career playing in the NPSL, the fourth-tier in US soccer. Our (alleged) new signing caught the eye during the open trials in Montreal, especially impressing CPL Managing Editor Kurt Larson, who Tweeted back in November that Iida was ‘the best attacking talent we saw at the CanPL trials’.
Expect Kodai Iida to be announced as a HFX Wanderers player in the next one to two weeks. Take a look at him in action here.