Halifax Wanderers have invited eight trialists to an initial preseason camp being held next week in Halifax, including several former university and college players and local stars as well as a couple of players with surprisingly extensive résumés.
Paul Craig is a former (and much beloved) FC Edmonton player from their earlier days in NASL, and has played in just about every small Canadian league there is1Seriously. AUS, NSSL, PDL, NASL, MISL. Did I miss any?, while Calum Ferguson has won a Scottish Cup and Adrian Butters is a Guyanese international.
There’s a distinct AUS and NSSL presence on the list, with former Cape Breton Caper Ian Greedy joining current Cape Breton Caper and USPORTs draft picks Peter Schaale and Andre Bona alongside Jonathon Hammond, Rory Kennedy, and Marcus Lees, practically a who’s who of top AUS talent from the past half-decade. Adam Lofranco also has USPORTs experience in OUA with York Lions.
Two teenagers will be at camp after both playing and doing well with their respective NSSL Premiership teams. 17-year-old Luke Green and 16-year-old Suliman Elromani will both be prototypes for the local development pathway from NSSL to the professional game.
Derek Gaudet will generate some interest, too. It would have been surprising if he wasn’t invited after playing for the Atlantic Selects team last year. He’s also something of a Halifax legend after coming home from Toronto FC’s academy2TFC fans may remember him from “that” game against Chivas USA with Ricky Titus and Diaz Kambere.and he’s now a fixture of the local NSSL Premiership.
Butters, a Canadian-born Guyanese international with experience in League 1 Ontario as well as quick stops in Sweden and Singapore3He’d be the third S-Leaguer in CanPL, joining Wataru Murofushi and Son Yong-chan., is a thirty-year-old competing to add some more depth to the Wanderers backline along with USPORTs draft pick and camp invite Andre Bona, an OM academy player turned track star turned soccer player again. If you watched USPORTs national this past year, you know Bona is very, very fast.
Calum Ferguson might slip under the radar in yesterday’s announcement but he’s appeared in the Scottish Premiership for Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their run to winning the Scottish Cup in 2015. He came up through their youth system and only featured twice as a substitute before struggling to find a home in the Scottish lower divisions, but at only 24, he’d rate as an intriguing pick-up.
Dieu Mercy Yuma is another L1O player, with Sanjaxx in 2018 after a lengthy stint in France’s fourth division, going up against Ligue 1 reserve sides and the like. He’s scored goals more or less wherever’s he’s been–here’s a video of him scoring three times in a half for CS Sedan–but has also battled injuries. He compares well with other L1O-to-CanPL signings if he can prove his durability.
As a long-time follower of AUS, I’m thrilled to see Kennedy, Greedy, Lees, and Hammond get another chance to break into the pro game. All left a big mark in the university leagues–they’d have been solid draft picks if this league had existed five to ten years ago. Kennedy, in particular, always struck me as a guy who had a much higher ceiling, and Greedy’s spent his post-university days putting up the kind of numbers in NSSL that suggest he really ought to be playing at a higher level. CanPL is finally here and these guys finally get their chance.
An even better story is Sam Karklins, who played CCAA4Canadian College Athletic Association, the university league for schools with smaller enrollments–usually though not always a lower level than USPORTs for a very good King’s team before going into firefighting and kicking about in the NSSL and recently, the Halifax Soccer League5Updated Mar. 4: Originally, I forgot he’d played NSSL as well, with Western Halifax. basically the local second division. Then he showed up at the open trials and finished top ten nationally in the physical testing, and having seen him play, he’s no slouch technically either6He scored possibly the best goal I’ve ever seen in ACAA, an arching, forty-yard belter against what was then the NS Agricultural College, I think.. Given his testing scores it would have been a shame for him not to get at least a camp invite, and he’ll be incredibly hungry to make an impact, because that’s the way he plays. (If he makes it, he’ll become the only Wanderers player I’ve quoted in a Dal Gazette article.)
It’s going to be an incredibly competitive camp given Wanderers already have 20 players signed, leaving somewhere around three spots to fight for. Many of these names could have been reputatable enough signings outright, and they’re triallists instead is a strong sign that CanPL can expand and grow.
Wanderers’ biggest positional need is at centre forward, giving Craig, Gaudet, Ferguson, Greedy, and Lees perhaps a slight edge–it seems likely Hart might sign two more attackers. Karklins and Yuma can play up front, too, and offer pace and flexibility. Adding a depth piece in central midfield and/or central defense would also round out the roster nicely, but I’d guess it’s more one defender and maybe one midfield spot up for grabs.