The Wanderers Recap: Building a Dam
The Wanderers have come a long way; there is no denying that. They have changed their culture, set a new play style, and done something that has eluded the franchise since their inception: consistently score goals. On the other hand, one of the things that hasn’t changed is a lack of clean sheets, as the Wanderers only had two in their first 17 matches through all competitions. Against Atletico Ottawa, the Wanderers can add a clean sheet to that tally as well as three significant points that lift them up the table.
Wth Halifax struggling with flooding, it felt like the team wanted to build a proverbial dam to inspire the fans and give them something special after such a devastating weekend for the region.
After a demoralizing, late winner from Cavalry last week, the Wanderers needed to do what they have done all season and bounce back with a convincing performance that drives the narrative of team progress. They did just that, and whether it was a dominant performance by HFX or a flat one from Atletico Ottawa does not matter to Wanderers fans as they left the stadium with the full three points after Theo Collomb’s wonder finish in the first half.
From minute one, the Wanderers pressed forward, methodically moving their lines deeper into Ottawa territory and terrorizing them with compact, neat, constantly shifting triangles of passing. Pressure mounted for the first 15-20 minutes, but then a lull set over the Wanderers Grounds as both teams tried to figure each other out. Then, as Daniel Nimick does, he pops up and shows why the Vancouver Whitecaps made a huge mistake in not signing him after the MLS SuperDraft. His cross-field ball seemed to float in the air for an eternity before dropping onto Theo Collomb, who side-foot-volleyed the ball past Nathan Ingham’s far post and into the net.
As Patrice Gheisar said in his post-match interview, Daniel Nimick has the potential to start for Canada at the 2026 World Cup. This match, even if you disregard that unbelievable assist, shows why. He was ruthless in defence, calm on the ball, and looked like the most experienced player on the pitch, even with Alberto Zapater and Doneil Henry on the pitch.
Moving on from Dan Nimick, let’s talk about how Halifax continued in the game as they worked to hold onto their lead. In past seasons, the Wanderers usually became reactionary and bunkered deep in their end. And this season, they have had a mix of that and being too aggressive in pursuing a goal that would extend the lead. Against Ottawa, the Wanderers continued to mature as they struck a balance with forward pressing, midfield compactness, defensive depth, and the ability to transition between defence and offence efficiently and calmly without losing the lightning pace they have shown in transition this season.
This performance was the next logical step in the Wanderers’ development under Patrice Gheisar. It wasn’t spectacular for 90 minutes, but it was under control, and they found a way to win, which is something great teams have.
Maturity and being a winner is arguably the most valuable thing for a young team. And while games played are the only remedy for youth and immaturity, the best way to expedite the growth of your young stars is by bringing in a player who has seen it all, done it all, and can still provide stiff competition for places in the starting 11. The Addition of Doneil Henry is an exciting move on paper, and in reality, it might be more valuable than many are claiming. Not only are you bringing in a player with a pedigree that is clearly above the league standard (although those standards seemingly rise every day), but you are bringing in a guy who is renowned for his leadership. In a league built to bring young players through, having a bonafide Canadian football hero to guide them through their initial professional years is crucial.
Look at teams like Forge and Cavalry, who have had Kyle Bekker and Nik Ledgerwood, respectively. Sure, they have contributed significantly on the pitch, but they have also been leaders for younger players on the team that need additional guidance that a coach can’t quite offer. If Doneil Henry is as great a leader as people say, his signing to the Wanderers will go down in club history as a crucial building block to franchise growth over the next few seasons.
As a weekend of fixtures wraps up, the win against Atletico Ottawa vaults the Wanderers up to fifth place and the ability to leapfrog York United, who have played an extra match so far. Currently, the team is on pace for 38 points in the season, which would be a club record, eclipsing the record set in 2021 of 35 points.
Considering that many people claimed that this season would be a rebuilding year, breaking a club record for points would be a great start to a rebuild.
Andre Rampersad played in his 100th Canadian Premier League game. He becomes just the sixth player in league history to do that and leads the Wanderers’ all-time appearance list by a whopping 33 games.
With the clean sheet, Yann Fillion has moved into a tie for third place with Jan-Michael Williams in all-time goalie clean sheets for the Wanderers. Next up is Kieran Baskett, who has nine in total. While I expect the team to get a few more, it would be an impressive defensive run if Yann could find six more by the end of the season.
Header Image Photo Credit: James Bennett / Halifax Wanderers