May 19, 2024
  • May 19, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Dan Nimick

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 3 – From Bad to Worse

By on April 28, 2024 0 600 Views

This is nothing new for Wanderers fans: starting the season for the club is like starting a 25-year-old Subaru. It will sputter, maybe even make some questionable noises, but at the end of the day, if you give it time to warm up, it’ll run.

Sure, Wanderers fans will want the club to start smoothly with no issues, but this is an attempt at finding some optimism for the 2024 season. With Atletico Ottawa visiting town for the home opener, many Wanderers fans were hoping that the sputtering engine would shift into gear and the slow, methodical climb up the table would start.

Instead, the Wanderers will need to re-insert the key into the ignition and try turning the car back on. Let’s dive in.

Game Recap:

Out of the gate, the key difference was an adjustment to the formation as Patrice Gheisar deployed a line-up with Dan Nimick and Julian Dunn playing in a back four instead of the back three we have seen in the past two games. Due to this change, Cale Loughrey found a spot on the bench, and he will have to bide his time to earn another opportunity after a rocky start to the season. Only time will tell if this is a long-term change in formation/philosophy from Gheisar or if it is a situational shift to match up against Atletico Ottawa.

From the start, this was the cleanest possession that the Wanderers have had all season. In tight spaces, players were making quick one-touch passes, allowing the team to progress up the field quickly and efficiently by breaking through the press. While not an example of this clean movement, the Wanderers found themselves in a great spot with a free kick in the fourth minute after Massimo Ferrin drew the foul while in transition.

One of the Wanderer’s most glaring issues this season is how wasteful they have been in dead-ball situations. Whether it be taking them too quickly and handing possession straight back or just misjudging crosses, defending set pieces has been quite easy for the opposing teams. In this case, Massimo Ferrin fired the ball up and over the wall, but goalkeeper Rayane Yesli was calmly able to control the ball. Sure, the chance wasn’t capitalized on, but at least the ball touched the goalie (silver linings).

15 minutes in and I could tell the players felt rested after returning home: the ball was moving quickly, our midfielders were finding space, and the grass at the Wanderers Grounds looked wonderful for an April game on the East Coast. As the story is for any team that is struggling to win but playing good football, they needed to capitalize on their chances otherwise they would likely be punished. 

20 minutes into the game, disaster struck for the Wanderers: Lorenzo Callegari, arguably the purest midfielder to grace the Canadian Premier League gets, was caught out and his attempt to regain possession saw him raise his boot up high. It caught Aparicio in the chest, and while I doubt there was any malicious intent, it is hard to argue that it shouldn’t have been a red card. Sure, it could have been deemed a yellow because of the play’s non-aggressive nature, but whenever you catch a player high, you leave yourself at the referee’s discretion.

All of that hard work to build positive momentum immediately goes out to sea, swept away quickly by the Atlantic current. In an immediate reaction, the Wanderers took on a new shape, trying to be as compact and organized as possible while still having a few players in positions that could move forward to potentially catch Ottawa when disorganized and out of possession. Credit where credit is due, the Wanderers had quite a clean 19-ish minutes post-red card, as they were able to limit any major chances from Ottawa and forced them to be the aggressors. But, as with almost all goals which the Wanderers have conceded this season, an error in judgment leads to an opposing team goal. In this case, being too delicate in clearing the ball.

The mountain continued to grow instead of shrinking in front of the Wanderers, even though the players on the pitch seemed to be making some headway. They combined well, moved efficiently, and kept fighting even while being down a goal and a man. All of that to say the odds continued to be stacked against the club and they let in another goal. This time to Manny Aparicio in the 56th minute – a player whom so many HFX fans were begging for the club to sign.

Fast forward to the 73rd, and Ottawa adds another. 

At this point, I was ready to turn off the TV, put on my rain jacket, and walk in the rain like a melancholy teenager in a Disney movie. But, in a brave effort, I kept watching, curious to see how the younger players would play. Unsurprisingly, they played with heart and effort, trying to capitalize on their chance to play and show that they deserved more minutes. I do not want to name names, but there was one starting player on the Wanderers that I have been deeply unimpressed with so far, and his effort level compared to the youngsters and substitutes was shocking.

On a more positive note, the Wanderers found a consolation goal in the 89th minute after Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare used his experience and passing ability to set up Riley Ferrazzo for his first professional goal. It was also the Wanderer’s first goal of the 2024 season.

All in all, not the best home opener for the Wanderers, but they will persevere, find their feet, and eventually show why many considered them to be amongst the favourites heading into this season.

Standings:

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

While the Wanderers aren’t technically in last place due to goal difference, they sit in a tie for last, with zero wins, zero draws, and three losses. This has been a dreadful start, and there is no real way to sugar coat it. 

Milestones:

While I hesitate to add this section after the match, multiple significant milestones happened during this match, and I do not want to discount them:

Young Remi Agunbiade made his first professional appearance, playing seven minutes in a substitute appearance!

Halifax Wanderers Remi Agunbiade
Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan

Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare recorded an assist, which gives him six in his Wanderers career. That is enough to tie him for first place in club history with Andre Rampersad, Zachary Fernandez, and Lorenzo Callegari. Gagnon-Lapare also made his fiftieth appearance for the club, making him just the tenth man to do so in club history. 

Finally, Riley Ferrazzo scored his first professional goal and, in the process, scored the first goal of the 2024 season for the Wanderers. With that, he becomes the 35th player to score a goal for the Wanderers. 

Next Game:

The Wanderers will take on League1 Quebec team CS Saint-Laurent in the Canadian Championship on Thursday, May 2 at 7:00PM AST. This single-leg tournament match is an important opportunity for the Wanderers to hit the reset button and start building some confidence because they look deep in a sophomore slump. Expect some rotation and experimentation, and for Patrice Gheisar to push a similar intensity to how John Herdman led out TFC versus the Simcoe County Rovers

Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan

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