HALIFAX — HFX Wanderers FC signed two players from last year’s Open Trials Thursday, adding Moncton native Kouamé Ouattara and Japanese midfielder Kodai Iida to their inaugural roster.
“You have to admire the ambition of these players,” Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart said. “Both brought the kind of qualities I was looking for.”
Hart recalls how Ouattara and Iida both caught his eye and a number of his counterparts straight away.
“All the coaches nicknamed Ouattara ‘The Beast’ he was so dominant,” explained Hart. “With Iida, he was instinctive and unpredictable and tricky and everybody noticed him immediately.”
Ouattara, a well-known soccer product in the Maritimes, signs his first pro deal.
The defender-midfielder impressed at the Open Trials in Halifax last September.
A former Moncton University standout, the Ivory Coast-born Ouattara relocated to the Maritimes in 2010 and joined the Aigles Bleus for an initial university season.
He went on trial with Spanish side Levante in his youth.
“He can obviously play multiple positions. He’s exceptional in the air. He also has the quality for good and simple distribution,” Hart said of Ouattara.
Iida, 24, joins the Wanderers after playing at the amateur and semi-pro levels in the U.S.
A native of Ishikawa, Japan, Iida can play as an attacking midfielder, out wide or behind the strikers.
He first came on the CPL radar during the Montreal Open Trials, scoring a number of goals during the games, including two in the final.
“This is my first professional team, I’m really excited,” Iida said. “I want to contribute to the team winning and I want to thank the coach. I really appreciate it.”
Iida previously played for FC Motown of the NPSL.
“He’s extremely dynamic, very attack-minded. At first glance he’s very slight but very hard to get close to in that he’s almost slippery,” said Hart. “He’s able to create space under pressure and deliver a shot or final pass, which is a great quality.”