May 20, 2024
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Halifax Wanderers Tiago Coimba Jack Barrett

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 4 – 20 Minutes of Improvement

By on May 12, 2024 0 476 Views

The HFX Wanderers started their matchday in a dark place: with no wins and only three goals in their first four matches, much of the optimism from last season has effectively disappeared. 

With this match against Cavalry FC being the Wanderers’ first opportunity since losing to CS Saint-Laurent in penalty kicks, many people expected the team to come out with an intensity not yet seen by the club this season. There was certainly more energy, but it isn’t as straightforward as that. 

Game Recap:

I’m going to cut to the chase because, for the first seventy minutes of the Wanderers versus Cavalry game, the Wanderers looked out of their depth. Sure, there was more fight (literally) in the Wanderers when compared to the first few matches of the season, but from a technical standpoint, the team, barring a few players and a couple of glittery moments, was second-best in every category. Countless times in my game notes in the first half, I noted down ‘wasted a free kick’, ‘cannot maintain possession for more than a few passes’, and arguably the most damming, ‘there is nothing stopping Cavalry from moving the ball through the midfield and creating transition opportunities out of nowhere.’

If it wasn’t for Yann Fillion making some excellent saves and Cavalry showing the fatigue in their legs, this game could have easily been sealed for the Calgary club before the Wanderers found some freedom and creativity in the 70th minute. 

Then, in that 71st minute, Giorgio Probo and Riley Ferrazzo, two players with an extremely high work rate, were introduced, and things changed dramatically. The field shifted towards the Wanderers. The press became more intelligent (i.e. there was no wasted running) when out of possession, the interplay was cleaner and more compact, and Cavalry couldn’t track the fluid movement of the front line, which seemed to be playing with no set positions. For the first time all season, it felt like the Wanderers could score due to their sustained pressure on the opposing goal instead of coming from a half-chance or sparkling individual effort. Then, the breakthrough almost came: a headed effort snuck under the Cavalry goalkeeper, but before the ball even hit the back of the net, the referee called a foul on Dan Nimick. 

While it can be difficult to see what the referee is seeing, there didn’t seem to be anything egregiously wrong with what Nimick did, but regardless, the goal did not stand. Then, just minutes later, Dan Nimick popped up like he does and delivered an excellent cross which found the head of a pesky, creative Italian midfielder. Giorgio Probo, who hasn’t exactly been stellar in his first few appearances for the club, found the back of the net, and as I have said a few times already, ‘for the first time this season’, there was some life coursing through the veins of the Wanderers Grounds in downtown Halifax. 

While I, for one, was hoping to hold onto the draw (sue me for being pessimistic), the Wanderers showed some real intensity and desire to find a go-ahead goal. Much of the positive growth came from how the team restarted play from goal kicks. In the first part of the match, there was a huge emphasis on playing through the centrebacks. This was not working. But, with the addition of an extra midfielder, Yann Fillion started playing the ball slightly further forward, allowing the Wanderers to play with some real tempo that had been sorely lacking all season. 

Unfortunately, they couldn’t find another goal, but neither could Cavalry, as the Wanderers notched their first point of the season, bringing them from the sewer to the basement apartment of the Canadian Premier League standings.

Cavalry FC Jack Barrett Wesley Timoteo
Photo Credit: James Bennett

Standings:

W/D/L: 0/1/3 (1 Point)

With that draw, the Wanderers are officially not in last place, as they have one more point than Valour (although the Wanderers have a game in hand over the Winnipeg club, too). While this feels silly to say, Halifax is only five points back of a playoff position. The climb begins. 

Milestones:

Giorgio Probo scored his first goal for the HFX Wanderers. By my record keeping, he is the first Italian to score for the club. Of course, many players of Italian descent have scored for the club, but none have played under the Italian flag as international players.  

With his assist today, Dan Nimick is fifth all-time in Wanderers goal contributions with 11 (7 goals and 4 assists). He also leads all defenders in this category, with Zachary Fernandez sitting 2 goal contributions behind Nimick with 9 (3 goals and 6 assists). 

Congratulations to both players and hopefully, they both rocket up the leaderboards as the season continues. 

Next Match:

Monday, May 20th, 4 PM AST versus Valour FC (currently last place in the league). The Wanderers would have wanted this game to be played sooner to capitalize on the positive momentum that they gained at the end of this game against Cavalry FC. Much like the match against CS Saint-Laurent, this is an opportunity to gain some confidence. If this season is to amount to anything, the momentum needs to continue against the only team in the league who have struggled more, Valour FC. 

Header Image Photo Credit: James Bennett

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