July 23, 2024
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Valour FC Marcello Polisi Joao Morelli

The Wanderers Recap: Stolen Valour

By on August 27, 2023 0 884 Views

Don’t look now, but the Halifax Wanderers are continuing their hot form. With four wins in their last six and a big draw against Forge FC away, they have risen through the standings to now find themselves touching distance from the leaders as the final sprint starts. With big performances from Daniel Nimick, Lorenzo Callegari, and Joao Morelli, the Wanderers handily dispatched Valour FC in rainy conditions. Let’s dive in!

Game Recap:

As with any match on natural grass where Mother Nature decided to pour down, players struggled to find their footing (literally and metaphorically). The opening half had chances for both teams, with the Wanderers having the better chance between them, as Massimo Ferrin rattled the far post with a shot from just outside of the six-yard box. Still, as the half-time whistle blew, the teams were level on the scoreline as both teams retreated from the rain into the dressing rooms.

With the Wanderers attacking the Kitchen End in the second half, the team clearly got an extra boost as they dominated from the restart, penning Valour FC in for multiple corner kicks before Wesley Timeteo found Dan Nimick with a cross off of a short-corner routine.

If Dan Nimick’s resume for Defender of the Year, League MVP, and Player’s MVP wasn’t strong enough, his goal versus Valour was his fourth of the year, bringing him to six-goal contributions from the centreback position. His game is unique for this league level, as he is physically dominant, calm on the ball, mobile, and able to contribute with goals. Once again, we need to ask the Vancouver Whitecaps why they didn’t sign this guy after the MLS SuperDraft.

After Nimick’s goal, Valour had to press further forward, which left more space for the HFX Wanderers to exploit on the counterattack. That is exactly what substitute Joao Morelli did. Lorenzo Callegari played him in with a hyper-delicate ball that sliced Valour’s defence in two, and of course, Morelli was able to finish calmly, getting his 24th goal for the Wanderers. Callegari earned his fifth assist of the season, which is a single-season record for any player in a Wanderers shirt.

At this point, Valour was vulnerable and did not look overly dangerous. Their attack has lacked sharpness all season, and a rainy day in Halifax was not the remedy. Still, the Wanderers needed to absorb the pressure that Valour was applying to get back into the game. As has become the norm, Doneil Henry gets subbed into the game, and the defensive line shifts from four at the back to a back three when they need to close up shop. Closing up shop is exactly what they did, even adding another goal through Tomas Giraldo, who scored his first professional goal off of a Joao Morelli cross.

Shockingly, that is only Joao Morelli’s second-ever assist in the Canadian Premier League. While this is surprising, historically, the Wanderers have had most of their goal-scoring come from a single source. In the early years, it was Akeem Garcia, after was Joao Morelli, then Sam Salter in 2022. 2023 is a completely different story as four players have four goals, with a further four scoring three times. For historical context, seven of the 15 players to score three or more goals all-time for the Wanderers are playing their first season for the club in 2023. Patrice Gheisar promised scoring by committee, and he has delivered in spades.

I typically use this section to wax lyrically about Dan Nimick, but today, the spotlight is going on the performance of Lorenzo Callegari. It is hard to say that he has improved drastically over the season, as he was so impressive over the first few games, but I truly feel like he is hitting his stride when it comes to overall contribution to the squad. After a spell of yellow cards, people questioned his discipline, and he quickly adjusted his behaviour to the point that he is nearing another good behaviour incentive. Another improvement that I have noticed is his understanding of how to complement his midfield partners best. In the early games, he played as the main pivot, being the main distributor, but issues arose when they tried to feed the ball back to him. Now, he is moving much more intelligently, giving his teammates simpler passes and an excellent out-ball for when they are under pressure. This takes significantly more off-ball running, and Callegari is doing it every single match.

He came to Canada to revive his career and love for the game, and I am so thankful because he is a joy to watch week in and week out. Wanderers fans will miss him when he inevitably moves on to bigger and better things.

Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan / Halifax Wanderers FC

Standings:

After matchday 21, the HFX Wanderers have 32 points, only three points from tying their all-time record for points in a season. While the record-setting season is exciting, it is where the team is in the standings that should really excite Wanderers fans. They are currently tied for third with Atletico Ottawa and just a handful of points off of first. Another unofficial milestone, but surely, this is the latest point in the season that the Wanderers have ever been ahead of Forge in the standings. With only seven regular season games remaining, the HFX Wanderers are three points ahead of York United for the last playoff spot and have a game in hand over the North York club.

With the Wanderers needing a significant chunk of minutes to reach the U-21 minutes threshold, they will want to lock up a playoff spot as soon as possible, so they can play youngsters with less pressure on performance.

Milestones:

There are lots of fun milestones this week as the Wanderers put on a wonderful performance.

First up, Tomas Giraldo, who scored their first professional goal. Some people have been critical of him this season, but I see a lot of potential and a player who is building back their confidence after a long break due to injury. Hopefully, this goal unlocks the potential that encouraged CF Montreal to give him a professional contract at such a young age.

Joao Morelli became the first player in Wanderers history to have 25 or more goal contributions for the club (he has 26 after his goal and assist versus Valour). He has an 18-goal contribution lead over the next active player on the list, Aidan Daniels.

As mentioned last week, Zachary Fernandez only needed 86 minutes to pass Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare on the all-time minutes played list for fifth in Wanderers history. His next target is Akeem Garcia, who has 1359 more than Fernandez, with 5183. Suppose Fernandez plays another season for the Wanderers. In that case, he will certainly pass the Trinidadian and have a chance to earn the record for most minutes played by a Canadian for the Wanderers (Christian Oxner holds a 1984-minute lead over Fernandez).

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