‘Consistency and concentration’: Hart targets mental lapses ahead of Fall opener

HALIFAX — There’s no mystery around what HFX Wanderers FC coach Stephen Hart wants to see out of his team as the fall season kicks off.

“What I demand from them is some level of consistency and concentration,” Hart after training ahead of the Fall opener against York9 FC on Saturday (4:30 p.m. AT/3:30 p.m. ET, OneSoccer). “That’s the difference between the top teams and the very mediocre teams.”

The Wanderers finished the spring season in fourth place with 11 points, three behind FC Edmonton and the same amount as Pacific FC and York9.

“We’re kind of disappointed from the position we finished with in the Spring season,” said left fullback Ndzemdzela Langwa. “But we’re definitely ready to take points from the beginning of the Fall season and build off of the last couple games in the Spring.”

While success was frequent at home, it was a different story away from home where the team failed to score over five Spring road matches.

“We expect to do better things, we expect to score more goals,” said HFX leading scorer Akeem Garcia. We expect to win more games on the road because I think it’s important to win games away from home. So we just need to step up and I expect that we climb up the table again.”

The words “consistency” and “concentration” are frequently brought up by Stephen Hart before and after games. Lapses in concentration have proven deadly or at least made life difficult for the Wanderers. But he does see the two ‘Cs’ getting better as inaugural CPL campaign continues.

“Yeah, it’s improving. I have to keep reminding them of it because you have to remember this is a learning process for a lot of players,” said Hart.

“They are learning to do professional life and it’s difficult because a lot of demands are … a lot different from other leagues.”

And life in the pros isn’t about to get any easier as HFX plays nine games in the month of July, including both legs of the Canadian Championship tie versus Ottawa Fury FC. To put that number in perspective, the Wanderers played 13 games from April 28 to June 26.

“So now (the schedule) is going to make more demands on you, on your lifestyle off the field and how you recover and of course how you go into games because you have to keep up the concentration. You have to keep up the intensity. So it’s a huge learning curve,” said Hart of the task ahead.

Which leads to the next question: Will we ever see a healthy HFX Wanderers starting XI?

Striker Luis Alberto Perea and midfielder Juan Diego Gutierrez took part in a couple full training sessions this week, but Hart

“This weekend might pushing it,” said Hart. “But if I need, I might see if 20 minutes are in order to get them now match-fit.”

As for the weekend match against York9, the two teams met twice in the spring season. It was a 1-1 draw in Halifax on May 29 and then a 0-0 draw at York Lions Stadium on June 26.

“I think we have to make some subtle changes. York is a team that can cause complexity with all their movement but because of all the movement there’s unbalance sometimes when the ball is recovered in certain positions and we have to take advantage of that,” Hart finished.