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Duran Lee to make Wanderers home debut

HFX Wanderer FC’s Duran Lee, left, was a busy defender taking on challenges against Valour FC in Canadian Premier League action on Wednesday night.  (Valour FC)
HFX Wanderer FC’s Duran Lee, left, was a busy defender taking on challenges against Valour FC in Canadian Premier League action on Wednesday night. (Valour FC)

Don’t expect a 1980s dance party to break out at the Wanderers Ground on Monday afternoon. But expect to hear Hungry Like The Wolf blasting from the loudspeakers when Duran Lee is introduced before his first home game with the HFX Wanderers.

“Gareth (Wanderers director of communications Gareth Hampshire) let me know that for my first home game, they’ll be playing Hungry Like The Wolf. I’m ready for that,” Lee — who’s named after the band (Duran Duran) that penned the song — said with a laugh.

“Hopefully my parents come down for that. It’s a holiday so they should be there for it. My parents would love it. It’s their favourite song.”

The Wanderers host FC Edmonton in the Labour Day matinee (2 p.m.).

Lee made his Canadian Premier League debut Wednesday evening in the Wanderers’ 2-0 loss to Valour FC in Winnipeg. He played the full 90 minutes and had 57 touches.

“It’s taken a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get to this level,” Lee said. “I’m so happy to finally have this moment.”

When captain Peter Schaale left the team earlier this month to return to Cape Breton University and finish his business degree, the Wanderers signed Lee to help alleviate the loss of the big German defender. It’s Lee’s first professional contract.

The six-foot-two centre-back from Toronto, who played NCAA Division 1 soccer at Connecticut and Massachusetts, had patrolled the backfield for League1 Ontario champion Vaughan Azzurri.

Lee’s first interaction with the Wanderers was back in May when his former club faced the CPL squad in a two-game, home-and-home series as part of the Canadian championship.

Vaughan played well against its professional opponent. Azzurri won the second leg 1-0 in front of 5,500 fans at a cold and blustery Wanderers Grounds on May 22. The teams finished the two-game series 3-3 on aggregate score but the Wanderers advanced based on the three away goals they scored in Vaughan, Ont.

“The first game was like an amateur team versus a pro team,” Lee recalled. “We were nervous and just wanted to play well. We started out rough but then we got into the game after they went up by two goals and then were able to match with a professional team.

“When we played in Halifax, it was a whole different mindset because we had to deal with the fans, who are the best fans in the league. After we won the game it felt fantastic. And not just in terms of the game but in Canada, in general. Even if the players are not at a professional level, they can compete at a professional level. That was a big thing we took away from the game.”

Lee, who played the full 90 minutes in each match and led Vaughan with a total of 121 touches, certainly made an impression with the Wanderers brass.

“He’s very tenacious,” Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart said of Lee. “I thought he dealt really well with containing (leading scorer) Akeem Garcia.

“He’s a take-no-prisoners type of player. He’s similar to how Peter was.”

“Those were my better games of the season with Vaughan,” Lee added. “I stayed focused and did what I needed to do as a defender.

“I was hoping someone was watching me and thinking, ‘hey, I like this guy as a defender.’ Never did I think I’d make it out here in Halifax. It has worked out.”

While the departure of Schaale was softened by the signing of Lee, the 24-year-old wants to make it clear he brings his own tangibles to the team.

“I know Peter left a really strong impression with the fans, the players and the coaches,” Lee said. “There is a lot of pressure for me to try to fill that hole.

“But I know what I can do as a player. I’m not here to be anyone’s replacement. I’m here to solidify my role as a player on this team. I want to be that player that guys will look up to by the way I play. I know Peter did great for the fans and did some fantastic things from what I heard. As much as I respect what Peter did, I’m here to do better than what Peter did. That’s just the competitor in me.

“I know what I can offer and Stephen knows that. I’m just here to do the job right and get the Wanderers back to being one of the best teams in the league, as it should be.”

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