After much too long a wait, Halifax Wanderers U23 program will launch tonight, against CS St-Hubert in PLSQ.
The final roster was released on Monday from an initial squad of nearly 30 that played an intra-squad match last weekend at Acadia. It’s a roster heavy on AUS connections, as was promised, supplemented by current Wanderers Ryan Robinson and Obeng Tabi, as well as former Wanderers Scott Firth and Luke Green.
This team was never meant to and can’t replace the entire development pathway in Nova Scotia. Rather, it’s meant to supplement it — not because of politics or other constraints but because that’s how singular clubs should work. The idea here is to get guys playing in NSSL, far away from One Soccer cameras, an opportunity to be seen by scouts, fans, and investors.
Yes, investors, because I think the most important part of these two games is actually how they’re produced, both in terms of off-field event planning (something Wanderers are usually very good at1And since I’m giving behind-the-scenes credit this week, Chelsea Norris deserves a lot of credit for how well this has worked, both at Wanderers’ Grounds and increasingly in AUS.) but also in business terms.
The best way to fill in Atlantic soccer’s missing years is with a semi-pro U23 league. Despite every other region in Canada either having one or starting one (Central will begin next year), such an idea has never got off the ground in the Maritimes.
There are real logistical challenges, mostly involving the difficulty driving a bus through water, but also in generating enough interest among local business people to start and run teams. Drawing fans is a big part of that.
As such, I’m actually a bit less interested in what this team does on the pitch. There will be future U23 camps that may involve more interesting prospects, though Enzo Eullafroy and Daniel Mavakala both have MLS academy experience of the sort that many CanPLers do, and Wanderers have been looking at guys like Oscar Marshall and Suliman Elomrani for a while now.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty workmanlike roster. It should be at least competitive against PLSQ players — we have some decent players in Nova Scotia — but it does feel like most of these players have shown pretty much what they are in AUS. If St. FX’s backline was good enough to play nationally, they’d probably have done better at nationals.
Still, it’s another opportunity, and every opportunity is good. We still need far more of these kinds of games in Atlantic Canada, and hopefully, if these two marquees work well, there’ll be interest in making more.
The games aren’t, as far as I know, being broadcast anywhere. As such, it’ll make a particularly triumphant return for the liveblog, commencing below at around 6:15pm.