June 22, 2024
  • June 22, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Yann Fillion

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 7 – Taking The Shirt Off Our Backs

By on June 3, 2024 1 615 Views

According to the good people at OneSoccer, the Wanderers have been without a win for 266 days as of June 2, 2024. Heading into Matchday 7 and playing against top-of-the-league Atletico Ottawa, the overwhelming sentiment was that the streak would continue and inch closer to 300 days between competitive wins.

Game Recap:

It has been a hard season for the Wanderers, which is well publicized in not only this outlet, but pretty much everywhere else that covers the CPL. On paper, there weren’t really any gaps in which the Wanderers would get a great chance to build momentum. After all, they are bottom of the table, underdogs for every match until that changes. There is no way around it: the squad has nothing to lose, and their back is against the wall. This is their opportunity to play with freedom, as it is not like they can get worse in terms of results.

At the end of last week’s match, the team seemed to find some solutions. To simplify it, they realized how stretched out they were formationally and needed to become more compact. From minute one, that seemed to be the focus. As the team moved with more cohesion, the distance between passes shortened, and the gaps between the forward, midfield, and defence were much tighter. With these changes, it took some time for the match to find some energy. As both teams slowly felt each other out, the Wanderers became the early aggressors as they targeted the young (yet extremely talented) centreback Tyr Walker, who was making his first start for Atletico Ottawa of the season.

With a few balls sent over the top, the Wanderers realized that being direct against Walker would give Ryan Telfer, Massimo Ferrin, and Giorgio Probo the ability to push Ottawa back while also stretching the defensive line and creating channels to run into. The fullbacks Zachary Fernandez and Riley Ferrazzo also took advantage of this and made overlapping runs that were reminiscent of last season’s potent offence.

Within the first 15 or so minutes, the Wanderers had multiple chances where they were one-on-one, or at least with a relatively clear shot at goal, but as has been the story all season, the final finish was lacking, thwarted, or wasted. The common criticism is that the Wanderers do a great job creating the chance to put the ball into the box, but the targets inside of the box aren’t creating enough movement, and not getting on the end of crosses into the box. This held true for the first 20 minutes.

That is, until the squad put together a moment of magic.

The only downside to this goal is that Wes Timoteo wasn’t credited with an assist, as Ottawa’s Kris Twardek deflected the final ball. Timoteo showed great creativity, tenacity, and work rate to create one of the best open-play goals in Wanderer’s history, giving the Wanderers their first lead in a CPL game this season. With this goal, the Wanderers entered uncharted territory with this group. Would they ball up and try to defend the rest of the game, or would they keep pushing forward, pressing on the weak spots in a rotated Ottawa backline?

Well, to make a long story short, it was a happy middle ground. When out of possession, the team shifted into a 4-3-3 formation. This adjustment meant that the midfield always had big numbers while not sacrificing compactness through the backline. In prior matches this season, the Wanderers were getting picked apart as teams overloaded the midfield and forward numbers. The ability to change shapes so quickly when going through different phases of play is just another example of why being compact is so crucial at the top level.

We can classify the phase between the first goal and half-time as relatively positive for the Wanderers, as they created chances but at times they showed how vulnerable they could be when defending in transition. From moment to moment, it felt like the Wanderers could gain a 2-0 advantage, while in the next moment, from the same passage of play it looked like Ottawa was about to tie the game, yet Yann Fillion stood tall and saved the ball whenever his number was called.

Mercifully, the half-time whistle was blown, and the Wanderers entered halftime with a lead for the first time all season, and who knows how long when dating back to last year.

As half-time inched by, it was surreal to be thinking about the match. There was optimism, and the scoreline felt like an accurate reflection of how the two teams played. The most surreal part was that Ryan Telfer was showing a level that seemed absent for the first matches of the season. He was pressing in accordance with the rest of the front line, was taking on players with his dribbling, and made runs off of the ball that helped open space for his teammates. The only thing that was lacking was that edge of selfishness that all great strikers have in front of goal. With that being said, I want to apologize for my harshness on him earlier in the season; I am seeing the potential and his inclusion in the team is growing on me.

As the second half commenced, Ottawa made two changes, a sign that they were disappointed and needed to make adjustments. Yet these changes didn’t stop the Wanderers from coming out of the half and moving the ball quickly, cleanly, and efficiently against Ottawa. For once, it was as if the Wanderers scoring a second goal was more likely than Ottawa tying it. Patrice and the boys were cooking. Slowly, around the 56th minute, the momentum started to shift, as Ottawa pressed harder, and the Wanderers focused more on being behind the ball. This was clear as when Ottawa had the ball at the halfway mark, every Wanderers player was in a compact block, waiting for Ottawa to make the first move.

This change in mentality led to rising stress levels (for me and for other Wanderers fans), but no moment was more stress-inducing than seeing Dan Nimick go down in the 61st minute and signal to the bench that he needed to be subbed off. Even if he isn’t the captain while Andre Rampersad is on the pitch, Dan Nimick is the CAPTAIN of this team, and is crucial in terms of organization, mentality, and maintaining concentration. Still, through the adversity of not having Nimick on the pitch for the first time this season, the Wanderers found the moment they were looking for through a great counterattack.

Starting with a defensive clearance, Lorenzo Callegari, Massimo Ferrin, Aidan Daniels, and Tiago Coimbra streamed forward, overwhelming an undermanned Atletico defence. Daniels unselfishly slid the ball across to Coimbra who tapped the ball home.

While the goal had a massive impact on the game, what Coimbra did to celebrate the goal had a larger impact on the game than we could have imagined. Immediately after scoring, Coimbra pulled his jersey off to celebrate, something that earns a player a yellow card. Sure, attackers typically don’t get yellows in open play, but still a risk. 15 minutes plus stoppage time, and the Wanderers have a two-goal lead. Adam Jenkins even claimed that the Wanderers had a foot and a half into the door on their way to their first victory of the season.

Then, in the 84th minute, Ollie Bassett got one back.

Six minutes plus stoppage time for the Wanderers to hold on. Simple, right? Well, on a relatively inconspicuous moment where Coimbra was caught offside, he lightly tapped the ball away. This was enough for the ref to consider giving a yellow to Coimbra for time-wasting. By the letter of the law, this was a second yellow, even if it is extremely harsh, but it is a lesson for Coimbra that celebrating in other ways might be the smarter move, even if it means not being able to show off your abs.

Four minutes remaining plus stoppage time, and the Wanderers are down to 10 men and have a one-goal lead.

Still, the Wanderers held strong, getting through regular time with no real hiccups. Then, the fourth referee held up the board, 10, yes, TEN extra minutes to be played. Most of the Wanderers looked like they had five minutes left in their legs, and that is being generous.

With just a few minutes left in stoppage time, newly acquired loanee, Clement Bayiha found room down the right side and took the ball to the corner. In an attempt to win a corner, he tried to knock the ball off of an Ottawa player, but instead gave the ball back to Ottawa, giving them one more chance.

One more chance is all it took, as Andre Rampersad had an inopportune hamstring cramp and couldn’t close down the wide Ottawa player who placed a cross right on Alberto Zapater’s head, who looped the ball past Fillion, who was rooted to the spot.

Last touch of the game, Ottawa goal, Wanderers drop precious points. A story as old as time.

This one is bittersweet. The Wanderers played their best game of the season (by far), but at the end of the day, the fatal wounds that led the Wanderers to dropping points instead of getting all three were self-inflicted. Tiago Coimbra took his shirt off, and in turn, Ottawa metaphorically took the shirt right off of our backs. Stealing a point, and dampening the positivity that should have been taken from that game.

Standings:

W/D/L: 0/2/5 (2 Points)

With this draw, the Wanderers take a tiny step forward, yet they still sit at the bottom of the table, looking up at the rest of the league. Currently, the Wanderers are eight points out of the last playoff spot, but still maintain a game in hand, so that gap can be closed to five with a win in their next match.

Milestones:

Andre Rampersad made his 125th Appearance for the Wanderers. He becomes the first player in club history to reach that milestone. In those 125 games, he has one goal and six assists, which places him in a five-way tie for first place for most assists in club history.

Aidan Daniels recorded his sixth assist for the club, moving him into a tie for the all-time lead at the club.

York United loanee Clement Bayiha made his debut for the Wanderers. He becomes the 84th player to feature in a competitive match for the club.

Tiago Coimbra scored his fourth goal for the club, which places him in the top 10 for most goals scored for the Wanderers.

Next Match:

The Wanderers will face off against Pacific FC on June 8th at 3PM Atlantic time at the Wanderers grounds. This will be the 21st time the two coastal clubs will face off against each other, and the first time Pacific will return to the Wanderers Grounds since they dealt the Wanderers a devastating playoff loss last season.

Header Image Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography

1 Comment
  • Steph 3 weeks ago

    Glossing over the incessant time wasting, and subsequent warnings, and finally the well-deserved cards, belies the utter bias here. Also, no mention that the shirt removal was right in front of the supporters’ section, while yelling at the fans? It’s no surprise Coimbra had the “class” to blow kisses on his way down the tunnel with his red card.
    In the end, the Wanderers had karma come back and bite them.

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