Ruby Ready For Wanderers Return: ‘Now People Know What To Expect From Us’
When the Halifax Wanderers released their official roster update in November, the club made note that 20-year-old defender Jake Ruby was slated to trial for a position in the squad when preseason camp began. Things ended up advancing much faster than that, with the right-back signing a professional deal that was announced by the club last month.
Now slated to follow up on a rookie campaign that saw him impress as a fill-in for Canadian U-21 Player of the Year nominee Chrisnovic N’sa, there’ll be a lot of eyes watching to see how the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy product follows up on his rookie campaign.
Ruby’s path to a professional contract began out west, with the defender developing with Mountain United before joining the Whitecaps Academy system in 2016, where he was able to see how players trained and played in a professional environment during his teenage days.
He left the side in 2018, spending a month-long trial with FC Nurnburg using the same agency connection that now sees Emil Gazdov over there on a two-year loan. Situating himself in a new culture with a new language and different coaching style was a learning experience for him, and one that he reflects on as good for his growth both on and off the pitch.
It was in 2018 than the right-back joined USL2 side Victoria Highlanders for a single season, making nine appearances before his uncle put him touch with a coach at Trinity Western University. While pursuing a university education hadn’t always been on his radar, he was impressed with the coach’s vision regarding the U SPORTS team and gave the opportunity a go.
Playing for the same university side that helped players like Elijah Adekugbe and Joel Waterman establish themselves, his single season with Trinity Western saw Ruby become eligible for the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, where he was selected by the Halifax Wanderers as the final pick in 2019.
It was in late July last year when the Halifax Wanderers announced that Ruby had been signed to a developmental contract, coming in as a late depth addition to play behind Chrisnovic N’sa. Few would have expected him to pick up many minutes, though he went on to make eight appearances for the east coast side at the bubble tournament, with most of them coming in the group stage.
The Wanderers had entered the season as a big unknown, with head coach Stephen Hart having axed some sixteen players from the club’s inaugural roster. The significant turnover led to much-improved performances from the east coast side, with the club going from a last-placed finished in 2019 to being runners-up for the North Star Shield in 2020.
We had that big turnover last year, and with COVID-19 happening we didn’t know what to expect coming into the season in terms of how the chemistry was or how the team would react in that situation. Us being all together and close at The Island Games, it really helped our chemistry both on and off the pitch, and it really showed in the games, and with us making it to the finals. With so many players coming back, we have the foundation for that culture in our team mentality, and I think that’ll help us in the long-term.Jake Ruby
As it turns out, Ruby’s time with Trinity Western also paid dividends: the compact nature of the Island Games tournament meant the games were scheduled thick and fast, much like how things take place at the U SPORTS level. His familiarity with the demands and rapid pace of matches, as it turns out, was a big boost:
In a university season, games come up really quick with some back-to back games. It kind of reminded me of that. I knew there would be a lot of changes to the squad, having so many games back-to-back, that there’d be a lot of rotation in the squad. I knew I had to be ready when my chance came to prove myself, and it was a good opportunity for me to show what I can do. Us making it all the way to the finals, it gave me a good opportunity to play games, especially playing more games than some of the other teams.Jake Ruby
Ruby made his debut against what he jests was his old ‘home team’ in west coast side Pacific FC. Having played against many of the club’s roster in his Whitecaps Academy days, he credits his familiarity with their tendencies as a big help to what ultimately came as a fairly solid ninety minute debut performance.
Ruby appeared as a late-game substitute in three other appearances throughout the regular season, but saw himself play two more ninety minute matches in the group stage. Halifax opened its postseason campaign against reigning champions Forge FC, with Ruby conceding what Wanderers VP of Football Operations Matt Fegan politely called a ‘dubious penalty call’ against the side.
Still, Fegan points to Ruby’s response after the decision as an example of what kind of steel the defender has: he didn’t let the penalty impact his performance, and was quickly back to work, helping the side to a 1-1 draw while playing on a yellow.
Sometimes, these things happen in games where the referee makes a bad call and it’s out of your hands, you can’t do much about it. The biggest thing that I felt in the moment was just to move on, keep pressing on, and look for another goal because they tied it up 1-1. Right after that goal, the team and I had a really good response after that, pressing and almost creating an opportunity to score.Jake Ruby
The 20-year-old ended his rookie season with 312 minutes of action, securing three starts from the side’s eleven matches. While he rode out the bench for the club’s CPL Final loss to Forge FC, he believes that the club will now be entering the 2021 Canadian Premier League season as one of the more high-profile sides in the league. He’s keeping his head down in the interim, focusing on increasing his physical strength and working on the mental side of the game.
As we’d said before, Ruby was originally expected to join the side to trial for a spot this March, though the club ended up signing the right-back to a professional deal several months early. Ruby explains that he never had thoughts of going elsewhere, and that the plan was always for him to return out east. After the club touched based with him in January, all the pieces just happened to fall into place earlier than expected.
My goal was to always come back to Halifax. I really enjoyed the time that I spent with Halifax at The Island Games, and talking with the coach at the year-end meeting, he was really happy with how I did and he wanted me back for the next year. I always had that in my mind: the team wanted me back, and I wanted to be back, so it was just a matter of time until we figure something out.Jake Ruby
Of course, it’s often said that following up on a good rookie season is a more difficult task than having a breakout campaign to begin with. Even in the CPL, we’ve already seen 2019 golden boot contender Terran Campbell follow up a blistering 2019 season with a comparatively quiet campaign this year – though there’s no doubting that the youngster has quality.
Ruby will face tough competition at right-back, with the club bringing in Collingwood-born defender Morey Doner from York United. The 26-year-old will be entering his third CPL season, and was of only a handful of CPL athletes to put in an iron man season last year.
I know there’s going to be a lot of competition for places just like there was last year, and teams will know what we’re about now. We were kind of a mystery last year, but now people know what to expect from us. For me, the biggest thing from having that year last year is just looking to improve. We had a very long off-season this year, and the biggest thing that has helped me is just trying to get stronger and developing a stronger mentality as well, coming into this season. I’ve got the experience under my belt from that first season, and now I know what to expect coming in.Jake Ruby
Football won’t be the only thing on Ruby’s plate next year: the club also noted that the youngster will be continuing his education out east, with Ruby planning on taking a handful of summer courses amidst what the Canadian Premier League hopes will be a full-length 28 game season featuring home markets for all eight CPL sides.
While he’s still sorting out the details of his post-secondary education, the fact that four Canadian Premier League players have retired early following The Island Games is ample evidence that having alternative career options is a good move to make.
After your playing career is over, you still have a lot of time to do things with your life and having that education is really important. I’ll get in what I can throughout the season education-wise.Jake Ruby
Ruby has spent this off-season back home on the west coast, where he’s been able to train with the Trinity Spartans. While preseason is slated to begin later on this month – pending government approval – many athletes haven’t had easy access to consistent training or, for that matter, a gym. For Ruby, however, that hasn’t been an issue out west with the Spartans.
His new deal with the Halifax Wanderers has club options for 2022 and 2023, which sparks the potential for a long-term stay out east. The former Whitecaps Academy product has aspirations to use the league as a launching pad, with plans to eventually head to Europe or overseas elsewhere, though for now he’s keen to improve on his rookie season with the Wanderers:
I’ll see how it goes with this season and see how things pan out. The CPL is a great opportunity for me right now as a young player, to play at home and get minutes in Canada. My goal has always been to move on to Europe or something overseas, but right now this is the best opportunity for me and the best chance to show what I can do. The CPL is hopefully a stepping stone for me in my professional career, and I’ll take it year-by-year for now.Jake Ruby
The Halifax Wanderers signed Jake Ruby to a professional contract that includes options for 2022 and 2023. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the club.