July 14, 2024
  • July 14, 2024
Halifax Wanderers Lorenzo Callegari

The Wanderers Recap: Matchday 9 – Deja Vu

By on June 16, 2024 0 556 Views

When you watch every game for a single team, there will be moments during a game that feel like deja vu, like replays from past matches. Unfortunately, against Forge FC, the Wanderers were shown a script that has been seen countless times.

Game Recap:

On June 15, Patrice Gheisar got the special treat of being able to coach a match on his birthday weekend. The season so far hasn’t been kind, but in the two matches prior to this match, the Wanderers have made steady and incremental progress, which I am sure Patrice is happy about (albeit still pushing hard to turn those draws into wins). They have been more compact, increased their off-ball work rate and, in my opinion, created a lot of chances. With that being said, the team has only three points in their first eight games, so there isn’t much to smile about.

That mood was reflected in the absolutely melancholy weather that fell over the Wanderers Grounds, as the crowd was sparse, covered in plastic ponchos and braving pouring rain, cold weather, and typical Halifax winds. Aiding in the melancholy was the omission of Dan Nimick from the starting lineup, who was allegedly available for selection but ended up not making the matchday 18.

When the match started, it was clear that the Wanderers had been well-drilled to be the aggressors, pushing high early while staying compact and focusing all their efforts on trying to play the game within the opposing half. For the first five or so minutes, this strategy worked quite well. The Wanderers either held possession and moved the ball forward or were able to press Forge into mistakes and win possession back high up the field. But, in the seventh minute, reality struck as to why this system can be vulnerable, as Forge countered swiftly, the ball moving through their midfield efficiently with Tristan Borges slipping David Choiniere in on goal, who wasn’t able to beat Yann Fillion, who got just enough of the ball to knock it off of the post. This swift counterattack was a clear warning shot fired by Forge.

With Forge looking threatening on the counter, the Wanderers decided to continue pushing, feeling as if they needed to take control of the game, to which I applaud. They have the worst record in the league, but they are being proactive, trying to take the game to a league dynasty and turning their ship around with their bare hands.

For the next thirty minutes, leading into stoppage time in the first half, Forge and Halifax traded momentum, each gaining five or 10 minutes of effective possession and earning an opportunity here and there. From a neutral perspective, the game was simmering but not close to boiling, and it could be described as a mediocre watch.

Then, as if shot out of a cannon, the match came to life with just two minutes of stoppage time remaining in the half. Forge gained two quick chances, and the Wanderers could have easily been down a goal or two in just those moments. Mercifully, the whistle blew, but this flurry of action at the end of the first half was a hint of what was to come in the second half.

Four minutes into the second half, Forge found way too much space for Wanderers fans’ liking, and as he has done so often for Forge, David Choiniere picked out the perfect cross, allowing Beni Badibanga to sneak in and head the ball into the back of the net.

It was deflating for the Wanderers, who had so many excellent stretches in the first 50 minutes of the match, but it also felt deserved as Forge carved up the Wanderers in the final moments of the second half. As the story has so often been for the Wanderers throughout their history, will they crumble? Or will they use this moment to galvanize and pull a result out of the fire? The next few minutes would be a clear picture of if the players feel the season is worth fighting for.

Almost like a polaroid, the picture took a few minutes to develop, but when it did, it was abundantly clear that there was still hope within the group.

Just a few minutes after Forge scored, the Wanderers, through Giorgio Probo’s sprint forward with the ball, found an equalizer. His slip pass to Clement Bayiha was deft, and Bayiha should be credited with an assist, as it is clear that he played the ball across before Massimo Ferrin lashed it into the back of the net for his first of the season. To summarize, the Wanderers want to prove that last season wasn’t a flop; they still have pride and anyone who questions that needs to eat their words (including myself).

One of the great things about watching a team so consistently is that you get to see players evolve, grow, and find confidence, and Giorgio Probo is the player who is currently catching the eye. Often, nifty and creative players find joy when they drop between the midfield and defensive lines, and Giorgio is no exception. As he started doing this more often, you could tell that he wanted more control over the game, and that is exactly what he did. Much like Lorenzo Callegari, when Probo gets on the ball he has the ability to change the tempo, whether that be slowing the game down or speeding it up. So, dropping in deep and giving himself more opportunities to have the ball at his feet helps the Wanderers immensely. When he does it correctly, it explains the recruitment strategy for this season. The Wanderer’s front office built a team of players around a select group of midfielders who could distribute the ball (like a Quarterback in the NFL) and paired them with pacy, willing runners who do everything they can to get on the end of the pass (like a Wide Receiver).

Returning to the game, the Wanderers have been a team in the past who are typically vulnerable directly after a big moment, and it wouldn’t be difficult to pull examples of the Wanderers conceding goals directly after scoring. For some reason, against Forge the Wanderers were able to continue building their momentum and pulling Forge apart, finding space and time on the ball.

The next key move was started by Andre Rampersad, who did what he does best (and we want to see more of it): be patient on the ball before picking the move that will unlock a defence. His incisive pass let Ryan Telfer lay it off for Massimo Ferrin, who caught Malcolm Duncan wrong-side. Duncan had to foul Ferrin in the box to stop a clear-cut chance. Penalty shot, Halifax Wanderers.

With Dan Nimick out with injury, Ferrin stepped up to the plate, hoping to double his goal tally for the day (and the season). Similarly to the his first goal of the season, Ferrin thrashed the ball into the bottom left corner, giving Jassem Koleilat of Forge no chance at saving the shot. 2-1 Wanderers, 25 minutes remaining. What could go wrong?

Five minutes after the go-ahead goal, the Wanderers were still holding what I call effective possession. Basically, they were dominating possession, but in effective areas that could lead to legitimate scoring chances, not just passing the ball around their half. Much like the first half, the Wanderers had large swaths of possession, followed by one or two counter-attack moments from Forge, which almost destroyed the Wanderers. Yann Fillion, however, had other ideas, as he was stellar for much of the game, with a large number of crucial saves. Forge had more clear-cut chances, and this meant that when Fillion was called into action, the saves had a high level of difficulty, which, for the most part, he handled.

A quick note: around the 80th minute, Lorenzo Callegari, with one touch, swung a ball all the way across the pitch and directly onto the foot of a Wanderers attacker. As has been said countless times, Lorenzo is like a painter: the pitch is his canvas, his right leg is the brush, and the ball is his paint. We are so lucky as CPL fans to see the level of the league rise, and Wanderers fans should look fondly at Lorenzo as probably the most technically gifted player the club has had in its short history.

As the game marched on, seconds ticked by, pressure building on the Wanderers, and you could feel some cracks start to form. Legs were getting tired on both sides of the ball, but there was a desperation in Forge that carried them that extra half-yard further as they started winning more 50/50 balls, and the Wanderers started going into survival mode. Yann Fillion kept doing his best, but Forge kept creating chances, so when the Wanderers won a corner in the 91st minute, it felt like a great opportunity to either steal time in the corner or swing the ball in and ensure that Forge couldn’t hit the team on the counter-attack.

But the Wanderers’ story has never been so straightforward. The corner was taken short, but the Wanderers were unable to hold possession for very long. So short was this possession that the Wanderers’ defense didn’t have time to reset, and Forge found themselves with a numerical advantage streaming down the pitch. This was an image we had seen before.

93-minutes played heartbreak once again. How can this happen so often to one club? Is it in the water?

That is two out of three games with blown leads in stoppage time, both coming off of simple defensive breakdowns after so much hard-work left the legs just tired enough that they couldn’t compete. Maybe it is as simple as needing more defensive depth on the subs list. Either way, the Wanderers drop points once again from a winning position. 2-2, final, one point secured.

Standings:

W/D/L: 0/4/5 (4 points)

Don’t look now, but the Wanderers have drawn their last three games. Sure, not necessarily a super hot stretch, and pretty much all three of those draws could have been wins, but these are draws against the best teams in the league in Ottawa, Pacific, and Forge FC. Winning is really hard in professional sports, but progress is being made. This season is not dead yet.

Milestones:

With his two goals, Massimo Ferrin becomes just the fourth player in Wanderers history to score ten or more goals for the club. With 11 in total, Ferrin is 13, 10 and four goals away from 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

During the match against Forge FC, two Wanderers players reached significant minutes played milestones.

  • Andre Rampersad becomes the first player in Wanderers history to reach 10,000 minutes played for the club. The next closest player in Wanderers history is Peter Schaale, who played 6,035 minutes for the club.
  • Zachary Fernandez became the fifth player to play 5,000 or more minutes for the club. He is only 173 (just less than two matches) away from passing Akeem Garcia for fourth all-time.

Next Match:

The Wanderers will have to wait another eight days until their next match as they will face Vancouver FC in Langley on June 23 at 8:00 PM AST (4:00 PM local time in Vancouver). The Wanderers have never secured a point when facing Vancouver FC on the West Coast. Do with that information what you will.

Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan / HFX Wanderers FC

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