May 20, 2024
  • May 20, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Yann Fillion

The Wanderers Recap: Canadian Championship – Lost at Sea

By on May 2, 2024 0 901 Views

I want to start this by saying that CS Saint-Laurent deserves heaps of credit. When I speak about the Wanderers and what they ‘should be able to do’, it should not discredit just how talented Saint-Laurent is and how many players on their squad deserve professional opportunities. So, caps off to them.

The Wanderers, on the other hand, have some major choices to make if they want to save their season. 

Game Recap:

When the match kicked off, it was immediately noticeable how different the level of competition was. Not so much in the quality of the player, but more so in the compactness and how well drilled and disciplined CS Saint-Laurent were in their positioning on the field. Because of this, the Wanderers had a few chances in the opening minutes. While this typically would be a cause of optimism, CS Saint-Laurent was also taking advantage of the open space, particularly with their ability to get in behind and move swiftly as a unit when gaining possession from a sloppy HFX Wanderers squad. In the 17th minute, this became increasingly evident after a Wanderers turnover, which led to a chance that probably would have been scored had Dan Nimick not made a beautifully strong defensive play to deflect the ball over the net. 

Immediately, Nimick, who was wearing the captain’s armband, got up and tried to motivate his teammates and get them to snap out of the fog that they seemed to all be in. It was like they were lost at sea, and each person on the ship was saying that the shore was in a different direction, yanking at the steering wheel and turning them further off course without even considering using the compass that they had on board. This warning shot did not lead to the Wanderers making any adjustments to their mentality, as CS Saint-Laurent kept getting chances as Riley Ferrazzo and Wesley Timeteo were nowhere to be found out wide during transitional moments, something CS Saint-Laurent ran wild with.

Somehow, the Wanderers survived these early flurries of attacks and were able to draw a penalty (albeit one that was clearcut in the modern rulebook, but maybe shouldn’t have been given based on actual severity) through Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, who got the ball in the penalty area and had his defender was on the wrong side of him.

Daniel Nimick, of course, stepped up and did what he does: deliver.

1-0 for the Wanderers and a collective sigh of relief around the Wanderers Grounds as it felt like the tide of poor football was starting to recede. Almost instantaneously, Ryan Telfer found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, a chance to make it 2-0 and completely alter CS Saint-Laurent’s gameplan, but their goalkeeper Konstantinos Maniatas was up to the task to deny the forward.

There was still optimism, but that was short-lived as a ball was played through and Yann Fillion came out to attempt to save it. Fillion was quick off his line went to ground and seemed to get his hands to the ball before the CS Saint-Laurent player, but the referee saw it differently and awarded a spot-kick to the visitors. Mouhamadou Kane, an ex-CPL player for York United and Vancouver FC, stepped up and buried it. Tie game, and all forms of optimism had left the Wanderers Grounds. 

At this point I was frustrated; these mistakes were purely self-inflicted. There was an infinite amount of space for CS Saint-Laurent to run into, and they were taking advantage of that, forcing our backline into recovery/rescue mode every time possession was turned over. It was like playing Russian Roulette with possession. I understand that the system the Wanderers want to play is quite fluid and attacking, but certainly after multiple chances where there are only two or three defenders back, and you have your wingbacks in striker positions, you would make an adjustment and force them to beat you in another way. 

Almost mercifully, the half-time whistle blew. In the moment, I’m sure all Wanderers fans would have been thinking that Patrice would wake the boys up, and the second half would be closer to what fans were expecting when playing a team that is technically classified as a semi-pro club. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, Mouhamadou Kane showed that he is not done at the professional level (IMO) and that Ryan Telfer is wildly off the pace right now. I don’t know if it is a slow adjustment to his new environment, but I’m not sure I have seen a more wasteful player on the ball in recent HFX Wanderers history. There is still time for him to figure it out, but he would be hard-pressed not to believe that this criticism is justified after his first four performances for the club. 

Then, in the 65th minute, CS Saint-Laurent did what felt inevitable, albeit in a way that seemed a little more farfetched. They scored from far, off of a deflection that left Yann Fillion screaming into the void as he looked for any reason why the goal may be disallowed. The goal, which was scored by Loic Kwemi, beautifully looped over Fillion’s head after Giorgio Probo made an attempt at blocking the shot and instead made it impossible for Fillion to save. 

At this moment, everyone in blue was at their panic stations. It was hard to watch, as each Wanderers attack felt toothless and without any real belief that it could create chances. Still, they kept pushing, hoping to find any form of attack.

While I wouldn’t say that post-CS Saint-Laurent goal that the Wanderers were prolific, they did, however, find a couple of chances and were able to finish one of them to tie the game. 

Ryan Telfer scored the tying goal on the spot. While this is good, it is difficult to say that it was enough to sway me to see his performance as positive. 

Now, with six minutes remaining in regular time, you would assume that the reality of the situation would set in for the Wanderers. Still, as Gareth Wheeler said on OneSoccer after the match, it seemed like Dan Nimick was the only player who didn’t just go through the motions instead of truly playing with aggression and passion. I know, very harsh, but I can’t come up with a different way to describe how the match played out and the body language of many of the Wanderers players. 

The final whistle blows and the two teams are tied. Penalty kicks. Basically a coin flip to decide who moves on to the next round. In all honesty, it felt lucky that the Wanderers even had a chance to win the game on penalty kicks, but I digress. 

Through the first four kick takers, each deserved to go in. Then, the fifth, Oussama Boughanmi for CS Saint-Laurent stepped up, and fired the ball low and to Fillion’s right. Fillion got down quickly, but somehow, the ball deflected off of him and bounced over the Canadian goalkeeper. Nine times out of ten, Fillion saves that if he dives the same way and Boughanmi shoots it in the same spot. 

The next two kicktakers step up and bury them. Up next, Christian Volesky, the extremely experienced USL veteran. Interestingly, he adjusted the position of the ball multiple times. It was as if nothing would sit quite right for him. In the moments leading up to his kick, it seemed basically decided that he wouldn’t score. Unfortunately for the Wanderers, this came true, setting up Mouhamadou Kane to play hero and score the game-winner. CS Saint-Laurent sealed the cupset, and the inquisition for the HFX Wanderers begins as they try to recover from what has been a horrendous April with zero positives to take away. 

Next Game:

Following the defeat to CS Saint-Laurent, the Wanderers will have nine days between matches to figure out why the project has fallen apart after such a promising start last season. With that said, their next match is on May 11th at 3:00 PM AST against Cavalry FC. If this performance is any indicator, Cavalry could be a monumental challenge for this squad. 

While I urge people to keep trust in parts of this project, there will come a time when people who made key recruitment decisions will need to answer for their mistakes (if things don’t turn around, of course), and I worry that that time is nearer than we think. 

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