While Halifax has hit its stride, coach Stephen Hart insists there is still lots for the team to work on.
“In spurts, you see really good stuff from the players and things we’ve been working at. But I think every team is in the same boat; there was so little time to prepare,” Hart told reporters on Monday.
Perhaps Hart’s tempered expectations come from genuine surprise. Less than two months ago the former Canadian national team insisted PEI would serve as a “prelude” to 2021. Now, he’s three matches away from leading HFX to its first CPL final.
Regardless of whether the Wanderers are successful or not, The Island Games have given ample time for the team to grow. One area he’d like to see his players clean up are mental lapses in games.
“We’ve spoken to the players a lot about switching off. Without a lot of games under your belt, this happens,” Hart explained.
“I’ve felt in (the first round) we’ve switched off and given the opposition chances they didn’t create. From a communication standpoint because players need to take ownership of this it’s a partnership – communication is important. If they are to develop as a player, this is something they have to get into their game.”
The Wanderers played Forge FC to a 1-1 in the first round. A line-breaking pass by Alex Marshall put Akeem Garcia in on goal and gave the Wanderers a surprising point against the defending CPL Champions.
“Both teams were extremely fresh and ready to go and I thought we did quite well in the game,” Hart offered. “We’ll see how this game goes later in the tournament. I don’t know exactly what to expect.”
Hart took some time during Monday’s chat with reporters to praise Forge captain Kyle Bekker, who has three goals at The Island Games.
“I think Kyle Bekker is a very special player and very little is written about him in the media, but then again I don’t read it,” Hart said.
“All this talk about other players being MVP – for me, Bekker is a special talent, he can move the ball very well, and it allows players to play higher up the pitch because he can’t get the ball to them closer to the goal.
“And they have some very unpredictable players out wide, very penetrative. They have a lot of weapons and they understand each other.”
João Morelli will return to HFX squad Wednesday following a two-match ban for elbowing York9 FC’s Joe Di Chiara last weekend. Tied for second in the Golden Boot race with three goals, the 24-year-old Brazilian has been brilliant as a number 10 for the Wanderers.
“He’s very mobile, plays between the lines very well and, well, he’s rested,” Hart said. “We’ll see how well he does when he comes back. He’s an important person for us because he gives a different look in the way he played the 10 and out wide.