June 22, 2024
  • June 22, 2024

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 8 – Can’t Score, Can’t Win

By on June 8, 2024 0 595 Views

Going into the match against Pacific FC, the odds were stacked against the HFX Wanderers: they lost against Ottawa in heartbreaking fashion (yet it was their own doing), star defender Dan Nimick is unavailable due to injury, and the longer they go without a win, the more pressure will increase on the team to get results. After all, it has been 252 days between wins for the Halifax Wanderers.

Game Recap:

While the results may not be improving, the HFX Wanderers’ performances have slowly improved incrementally since the final 30 minutes of the match against York United on May 24th. They have gotten more compact, moved the ball more efficiently, and found more space in the wide areas of the pitch that they thrived in last season. This trend continued in the first 10 minutes of the match against Pacific, with the Wanderers moving the ball wide before trying to get the ball into the box or near the top of the box for a shot on goal. Sure, it wasn’t as clean as we had seen last season, but there were clear patterns of play, and opportunities were created in possession.

The first big chance of the match came from a corner, where Massimo Ferrin headed the ball down onto the slick pitch, which forced Pacific keeper, Sean Melvin into a relatively difficult save. So far this season, set pieces have been wasted on almost every chance for the Wanderers, so it is a good sign that they are starting to create opportunities.

This corner, which was created through sustained forward pressure, highlights a few of the incremental improvements that the Wanderers have made. These three things are improved creativity as a unit, being more proactive in their movement off of the ball (ie making runs to create space and ensuring that whoever has the ball has realistic passing options), and finally, a willingness to have the entire team shift forward in efforts to maintain sustained pressure in and out of possession. Still, the story remained the same: the Wanderers could not score, regardless of how high their xG was or how many mistakes the opposing team made.

Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan

Around the 34th minute, the game started to open up for both sides. First, Josh Heard got a chance to strike at goal, and then immediately after, the Wanderers counter-attacked but had their opportunity blocked. As soon as the game seemed to open up, both teams would get back into their shapes, and the cynical, defensive football would continue. Somehow, the whistle for halftime blew, and if notes weren’t being taken, it would feel like nothing really happened in the first half, so much so that One Soccer didn’t have a single highlight to tweet out during the first 45 minutes of the game.

As half-time ended, the possession statistics reinforced that the Wanderers were the more proactive team, with 57% possession and a handful more shot attempts than Pacific.

In an odd twist of fate, the storyline that let Ottawa back into the game last week (a yellow for a foul and a yellow for timewasting) happened to Pacific and gave the Wanderers the man advantage with 35 minutes remaining in the game.

In the case of Juan Quintana, the first yellow was received for throwing the ball away after a foul (this card can be argued in terms of validity), but then just a minute later he committed a tactical foul on Aidan Daniels to stop the fast break (even though Massimo Ferrin still had an attempt on goal). This tactical foul is a clear-cut yellow, regardless of whether the player just got a relatively soft yellow moments prior. As with Tiago Coimbra last week, poor choices lead to poor results. Coimbra shouldn’t have put himself on a yellow after scoring a goal, and Quintana shouldn’t have thrown the ball away in anger; it is purely tempting fate.

Returning to the game, it was squarely in the hands of the Wanderers; after all, for the first 53 minutes before the red card, they were the team who looked more likely to score, so with the advantage, that should only be amplified, right?

Well, as Pacific reshuffled, the Wanderers lost some of their impetus, and their pace of play started to slow. The excellent off-ball movement from earlier in the match reduced in frequency. They still found chances, but they didn’t run Pacific ragged, which allowed Pacific to stay compact and remain relatively unfatigued through the match—which is one of the keys to beating a team against whom you hold a numerical advantage.

Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan

Then, in the 73rd minute, another great chance fell to Christian Volesky, arguably the player on the pitch who you’d most expect to finish a clear-cut chance based on his resume. His head effort slammed into the crossbar, and the subsequent efforts couldn’t sneak past Pacific defenders.

The paragraph above could be repeated three, four, or even five times with slight variations in who made the attempt on goal and how it was saved or missed, and you would have the full story of the game. Opportunities came, and opportunities went without Pacific being punished. That is the story of the match from a Wanderers’ perspective.

Standings:

W/D/L: 0/3/5 (3 Points)

The draw keeps the Wanderers in basically the same position as they were in. After eight matches, a paltry three points, seven points back of the last playoff spot.

Milestones:

Yann Fillion kept his eighth clean sheet for the Halifax Wanderers. This moves him within one of tying Kieran Baskett for second all-time in clean sheets for the club. The all-time leader is Halifax native Christian Oxner, who kept 18 in his time with the club. Oxner also holds the record for most wins (18) as a goalkeeper, as well as appearances in the net. Fillion could catch Oxner for most wins, but will need 7 in the remaining 22 regular season matchups for the Wanderers.

Next Match:

The Wanderers’ next match is against Forge FC on June 15th, during the Canadian Premier Leagues’ Marvel Super Hero Night.

Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan / Halifax Wanderers

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