After two weeks at home base, the Halifax Wanderers are all packed for Florida. The club departed on Monday morning for Auburndale, as the first round of exhibition matches quickly approaches.
The Wanderers will spend two weeks in the picturesque community just southwest of Orlando, training at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park. A newly built Auburndale Stadium will serve as the training pitch throughout the team’s stay, giving the club both warm weather and grass to practise on.
Ahead of the first road trip of 2023, Halifax kicked off camp officially on March 1 with two-a-day sessions at the city’s indoor pitch. New head coach Patrice Gheisar went straight to work, putting the team through the paces and working to build up fitness as a meeting with Atlético Ottawa lurks on April 15.
“I think it went well; we saw a big progression over just the first week, so that was nice to see,” Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar said. “Obviously, we need to be patient with their level of fitness and understand that there’s a balance of pushing hard but also keeping them fresh.”
On the final day of week two, the club played a friendly against Wanderers U23, a squad made up Halifax produced players and standouts on Atlantic Canadian U SPORTS teams. The match served as an opportunity for the Wanderers to face new opposition ahead of the Florida trip, while the U23s gained quality match experience as they prepare for a larger summer campaign compared to 2022.
With known commodities like Vaughan signings Massimo Ferrin, Kosi Nwafornso and Riley Ferrazzo, Gheisar spent the early days getting time with all the new faces he will lead into the 2023 CPL season. That list includes French players Lorenzo Callegari and Theo Collomb.
“They’re fantastic players,” Gheisar said. “What we have to do right now is turn these really good players into a really good team. It’s all about coming together and getting sharper.”
For Collomb, a striker that joined the Wanderers after a season in the Vancouver Whitecaps system, the coming days are about building chemistry within Gheisar’s system.
“Patrice is demanding, but you already see him getting a lot out of the guys,” Collomb said. “We’re still learning each other, the coaches, and the environment, but we are developing as a team.”
New additions arrived in camp to support the Wanderers’ roster. New U18 signings Ethan Schilte-Brown and Kimani Stewart-Baynes slotted right in with the squad and will join the team in Florida. Also making the trip down south is Wanderers 2023 U SPORTS draft selection Aiden Rushenas. Rushenas continues his trial for a potential contract with the Wanderers, joining recent goalkeeper signing Yann Fillion between the sticks during pre-season.
“Ethan is a strong young player. He’s composed on the ball and fits our system with qualities that will continue to develop for years to come,” Gheisar said. “Kimani has a bright future ahead and is coming off of an intense college recruiting process and possesses high-end dribbling, athleticism and technical ability. Aiden will get a chance to show his abilities in the upcoming games after performing well in training.”
Halifax’s schedule down south includes four matches against American opposition. Up first is a March 18 meeting at Montverde Academy. The Wanderers will also host Stetson University in Auburndale (March 21) before a meeting with Inter Miami CF II (March 25). Finally, the pre-season trip wraps up with a visit to the University of South Florida on March 26 (previously announced as March 27).
The team will fly back to Halifax for the final phase of training camp on March 28. An exhibition match against Nepean Hotspurs Ottawa Selects is now scheduled for April 7. The club intends to have this match open to the public, with details on the location and time being announced at a later date. A second match in Halifax against an opponent from League1 Ontario will also be announced in the coming weeks and be played over the Easter weekend.
Following those final exhibition matches at home, the Wanderers will depart for Ontario to open the season with three matches on the road, two in the CPL and one in the Canadian Championship. It all gets going on April 15 with a visit to Atlético Ottawa.