HFX Wanderers Recap: Matchday 3 (Vancouver FC)
Gameday 3 has come and gone for the Halifax Wanderers, and while the team is still technically undefeated in the regular season, there are lots of questions and uncertainty around the 2023 edition of the Wanderers. Let’s not waste any time and dive into some thoughts from today’s match.
The Wanderers are in a relatively uncharted situation for the team, and that is having an abundance of depth through the centre of the park. Whether it be the centre-backs or the central midfielders, the Wanderers have options aplenty, and Patrice Gheisar has been rotating both with regularity in the first four games of the season.
I appreciate the willingness to experiment, but at some point continuity must prevail, as partnerships need consistency to blossom and maximize their on-field success. Clearly, Daniel Nimick is part of the centre-back partnership of the future, but I am not sold entirely on Mo Omar being his partner. Cale Loughrey looked excellent, and Cristian Campagna has been solid when he has played. I would love to see Mo Omar get a chance to play at the base of the midfield right in front of the centre-backs and see how that changes his productivity levels. He seems to be a bit of a tweener. Not quite a centreback and not quite a midfielder. It’ll be interesting to see how he evolves and if he settles into a defined role for the team.
The Vaughan Contributions
Much has been said about this being the HFX Vaughanderers. While I like the joke, I think that the identity that was so deeply ingrained with the Vaughan Azzuri is slowly taking hold with the Wanderers. It is most evident in moments from Riley Ferrazzo and Massimo Ferrin. The two young upstarts have been playing fearlessly since their debuts, and I believe it has much to do with the freedom that Patrice Gheisar gives to his players. He allows them to take risks, have fun, and to try and play a beautiful game. Ferrazzo’s long through ball off a first touch was an example of this, and Ferrin tried a bicycle/scissor kick after the first goal was scored.
I think these risk-taking moments are crucial for team identity, and I hope that spirit only grows stronger within the group, as it is exciting to watch as well as being relatively effective when combined with strong tactical understanding and cohesiveness within the team.
Andre Rampersad’s New Position
Andre Rampersad has been the bedrock of the HFX Wanderers for their first four seasons, but so far this season, his impact has been less noticeable. I don’t think he has been playing poorly, more so just adjusting to his role further up the pitch, whether it be a few loose touches in a more condensed area of the pitch (the final 3rd) or struggling to find the open pockets to offer support for his teammates.
I know that Rampersad had wanted to have a larger impact on the offensive end of the pitch, but I wonder if the box-to-box role fit him better at this level. Of course, I believe he can adjust and thrive as a more attacking midfielder. But, my question is if he gets enough time to adjust or if Patrice will reposition him to a more familiar role.
So, we found a new thing to complain about: we can’t really score as much as we should. We are creating so many wonderful opportunities that I genuinely think we could occasionally score four or five in a game, but so far, we have missed chances at an alarming rate. I chalk this up to a mix of the team still gelling together and understanding each other, as well as a lack of professional experience in front of the goal. Neither of these are unfixable things. Focusing on the professional experience, typically, the art of goal scoring takes time at the professional level to develop. Look at the top level of the game, and it is unbelievably rare to find a goal scorer that outperforms expected goals, and when the world does find one who does, they snap them up like the most important commodity on the market,
Suppose the Wanderers can find a bit more continuity across the front line. In that case, we might see a bit more productivity as the relationships strengthen, and the understanding of preferred movement blossoms into a mature, blooming orchid of pure football.
All-in-all, I think this team is moving in the right direction. Sure, we have yet to win a game, but we have also been competitive in every fixture thus far, which is something we couldn’t say last year. Wins will come, and momentum will follow. As Joel Embiid once said, “trust the process”.