Locally born goalkeeper and Sarnia raised defender shore up Wanderers back line
HFX Wanderers FC have added experience and youth to the club’s roster with the signings of defender Alex De Carolis and goalkeeper Christian Oxner.
26-year-old De Carolis is signing for the club after playing for the past three seasons in Sweden, most recently for Umeå FC.
Oxner, who is 22, is putting pen to paper to become an official Wanderers player after being chosen by the club at the CPL-U SPORTS draft last November.
“De Carolis has shown the character in terms of his determination and hard work to make it as a professional,” said Wanderers coach Stephen Hart. “Christian is another player who has worked tremendously hard to get where he is, he deserves this opportunity.”
Born and raised in Sarnia, Ont., De Carolis has earned the reputation of being a tireless left full-back who gets up and down the flank, but can also play centre-back or in midfield.
After moving to Sweden to try to make his mark as a professional, he describes his move back to Canada to be a part of the Wanderers team as a “no brainer.”
“I think it’s cool to be part of history in the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League,” De Carolis said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Halifax-born Oxner said he was expecting to fight for a spot on the Wanderers squad in preseason trials, until Stephen Hart called him with the offer he had been dreaming of.
“It feels good, I was so glad to get drafted but now I’m getting the chance to represent the city I grew up in so now I can play with freedom and I’m excited,” he said.
While at different stages in their careers, both players have the kind of drive and dedication that has made it easy for Hart to put his faith in them.
The Wanderers coach sees De Carolis as a well rounded pro who brings experience and know-how to the squad.
“He took his chance and got out of his comfort zone in a country that speaks a completely different language and it goes to show he will do whatever is necessary to join the professional game,” Hart acknowledged.
It’s a move De Carolis has been hoping for after feeling a little overlooked by professional teams in the past, in spite of a fine collegiate career with Canisius in Buffalo where he played in Division 1 of the NCAA.
Not bad for a kid whose first passion was basketball, before he began to discover his soccer talent with youth club Sarnia Fury.
He later won professional development league championships with FC London and was also with the Seattle Sounders youth system before taking a chance on a move to Sweden.
Having an Italian passport through his parents made it easier to go to Europe, but he still started at the amateur level with Nora BK before earning a move to Västerås BK at the pro level.
He played most of last season with his third Swedish club Umeå FC at centre-back, showing a versatility and attitude Hart likes and that De Carolis says is a big part of who he is.
“I’ve always been known as someone who when the coach asks me I do it,” De Carolis said. “I’m a team first kind of guy.”
Oxner ready to represent his hometown
Wanderers fans will already know Oxner after his outstanding performance in goal for the Atlantic Selects team last summer against Fortuna Düsseldorf.
One of the highlights of the game was his save in the penalty shoot out.
“The fans got a taste of what he’s capable of because he kept us in that game for long periods, so those at the game know exactly what he can do,” Hart said.
Oxner grew up in Clayton Park and played for local team Dunbrack as a youngster, before establishing himself as one for the future while playing for Saint Mary’s Huskies and Western Halifax FC.
He was a big part of the dominant Western team that won three provincial championships and a national title, which Hart has also been impressed with.
Now he’s looking forward to playing in front of his family and friends at the Wanderers Grounds, as well as being an example to potential future stars in the Halifax region.
“I think it’s great for the kids who can see we can actually make the team from here and seeing me out there and doing well will give them something to set their goals for,” he said.
Just as he pointed out when signing Scott Firth, Hart is making it clear Oxner is not being signed because he’s local, but because he’s good enough.
And the Wanderers boss expects him to get better in a professional setting alongside veteran former international keeper Jan-Michael Williams.
“He’s got an excellent mentor in front of him, someone who has played 81 international games and has played all over the world and if I know Christian, he is going to absorb everything and prove himself,” Hart said.
The new signings take the Wanderers number of confirmed players to 13.
Stay tuned for more new player signings in the next few weeks as the club continues to build it’s first ever squad for the new Canadian Premier League season, kicking off in April.
The club want to congratulate Alex and Christian and wish them all the best with the Wanderers.