In this series, Steven Sandor examines the projected starting lineups of each Canadian Premier League club ahead of the 2019 CPL season.
HFX Wanderers enter the season as the real wild-card in the Canadian Premier League.
There’s certainly a heck of a lot of excitement on the Atlantic Coast about this team. Ticket sales are brisk, and a trip to Nova Scotia promises to be one of those must-do away days for fans of the other six clubs. But, what kind of team will coach Stephen Hart have at his disposal?
Every team in this league has question marks, but Wanderers’ are more evident than most. But, just because this isn’t a team of names well-known to Canadian soccer fans doesn’t mean this team can’t be competitive. This will be a team that marches to its own beat and will have a distinct identity. A mix of South American flair, Caribbean experience and heavy influence from the Montreal Impact youth ranks makes for an interesting soccer soup. It’ll soon be time for fans to get a taste of it, too.
This the area where Wanderers have a well-known commodity. With over 80 caps for Trinidad and Tobago, plus experience in Honduras, Guatemala and the CONCACAF Champions League, Jan-Michael Williams will be looked upon to not only stop shots but be a leader in the clubhouse, as well.
Zachary Sukunda was the first player signed by Hart; the fullback has plenty of USL experience with FC Montreal, and will be looked to bring both defensive guile and offensive thrust on the wing. The question: Which wing? He’s played on either side in camp. In the middle, look for Canadian Chakib Hocine, a good friend of Sukunda’s from their days in the Impact system, to provide some real crunch in the tackle. Familiarity from the Montreal system should help the teammates gel.
Elton John can play in either the back or in a holding spot in the midfield. The Trinidad and Tobago international should become a cult hero Halifax and the most beloved player of headline writers through the league. John has played in Belgium and is a veteran of Caribbean soccer. At 31, he’ll bring veteran guile to the middle. And while John brings the steel, Peruvian playmaker Juan Diego Gutierrez could turn out to be one of the most underrated international signings in the league. The left-footed playmaker has played in Europe and on the biggest stage in his native Peru, so Halifax might seem a little laid-back to him.
Gutierrez will be reunited with forward Luis Alberto Perea. The Colombian striker has had a much-travelled career, including a stint in Peru where he and his Gutierrez were teammates. Perea had a very brief stop with FC Dallas of MLS but scored at an almost goal-per-game pace in El Salvador last season.