HFX Wanderers FC coach Stephen Hart has one eye one 2020 and one eye on 2021.
As Canadian Premier League officials work towards staging a potential 2020 season, Hart is taking a more cautious approach compared to the other seven coaches in the league when it comes to his roster.
Speaking to CanPL.ca this week, Hart confirmed that Brazilian defender Eriks Santos and Jamaican attacker Alex Marshall – two of the club’s big off-season signings – have yet to arrive in Canada due to travel restrictions. Likewise, several CPL clubs have been unable to get some of their international players across the Canadian border during the COVID-19 pandemic as the federal government limits travel.
HFX expects to make an announcement soon about Marshall’s status. If the 22-year-old Jamaican national team attacker rejoins the Wanderers, he will have some catching up to do given the fact he hasn’t yet trained with the team.
Santos, 24, is a former Brazilian under-20s centre back and has been tipped to be one of the CPL’s best central defenders.
“We are depending on these players – they’re young, new to the squad, and we want to build around them,” Hart told CanPLca. “They would be a catalyst for establishing a base for players for 2021.
“We are waiting on word from the Canadian embassies to see if they’ll be able to fly.”
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When Marshall arrives in Halifax, Hart will have 19 players available for a potential 2020 CPL season. As other CPL clubs add and subtract players due to international restrictions, Hart explained his squad, as it stands, won’t change for the foreseeable future.
“We need to be cautious because we don’t know what’s happening or signing players without fully knowing what the situation is,” Hart said. “I don’t think we’re going to bring any players in.
“We would like to put our best foot forward but, realistically, we haven’t been able to play any games and we may be missing players.”
The Wanderers’ current squad skews slightly younger compared to last season. Alex de Carolis, 27, is the club’s oldest player as one of a handful of holdovers from the last-placed Wanderers side from 2019.
When asked about a potential single-site tournament for the 2020 CPL season, Hart suggested playing time for youngsters such as CPL-U SPORTS Draft first overall pick Cory Bent and ex-Montreal Impact fullback Daniel Kinumbe will be his focus.
“We have a nucleus of players and we’ll give them the opportunity to shine,” Hart stated.
“We want them to get a chance to prove themselves, especially as we look ahead to 2021. Yes, we’re going to try our best, but we’ll use it as a prelude to the next season.”