The Wanderers Recap: The Eye of The Storm
Before the match against Atletico Ottawa on Monday night, the Wanderers had earned five out of a possible 12 points in their previous four games. That point total was not causing much optimism about the Wanderers leading into the final stanza of league games. HFX was holding onto the fifth place with York breathing down their neck and Atletico Ottawa looking like they were going to get hot just as the key stretch appeared.
The Canadian Premier League has consistently provided matches with intense twists and turns, and this match was like getting thrown off a cliff, so strap in and get ready for impact.
Let me paint you a picture. Your favourite football team is struggling to get wins in the last few games of the season. They had an incredible run in the middle of the season, but the teams’ legs seem to have given out, and every point earned feels like summiting Mount Everest. Then, in the 13th minute, a former favourite son of the team scores a heartbreaking goal for their new team and celebrates as if he has hated the club since their first breath of life. You’d feel like, in that moment, that the season was dead. All those moments of sacrifice, optimism, and celebration are forgotten, and the scars of the season reopen with reckless abandon.
Dramatics aside, I have never felt so deflated after Yann Fillion let in a weak goal from a long Sam Salter attempt. The team has looked flat since their resounding 3-0 win over Valour, and the first half of this game was no different. It is understandable; a season like this one takes its toll on you mentally. Add immense travel and inexperience, and you have the perfect recipe for mental exhaustion.
Yet, this isn’t a mentally broken Wanderers team. The boys haven’t given up; you can see how much they care. I’m not sure what was said in the locker room at halftime, but when the team came out for the second half, there was a clear belief that they would come back and win. It wasn’t arrogance but more an understanding that each and every player in a Wanderers shirt was going to die on the pitch before they admitted defeat. As a fan, nothing endears you more to a team, player, and organization than when you see such an intense commitment to the crest.
Four minutes in, Massimo Ferrin scores his team-leading sixth goal of the season. Ferrin was the recipient of a fortuitous pass that somehow slipped past the Ottawa defenders, but he still had lots of work to finish the play. As the former Vaughan Azzurri player has shown all year, he has a nose for goal and will keep digging until he gets his due.
Immediately after the first Wanderers goal, you could see that they had a taste for blood and needed more. This is an intensity level that we haven’t quite seen enough of from the Wanderers this season, but when we have seen it, you can see that the team could potentially win some silverware.
Fast forward seven minutes, and you get a piece of magic that very few players in the Canadian Premier League could have created. Lorenzo Callegari, the French magician, took the ball down out of the air, settled it, skipped past a defender, and then curled a ball perfectly onto a streaking Jordan Perruzza, who barely needed to head the ball into the net. No defender in the league could defend against such a perfect pass. Give this boy his flowers RIGHT NOW!
After that goal, the Wanderers were left with 34 minutes to defend the lead that would push them into fourth place and keep their hopes of second or third in the table alive. Fast forward to the 90th minute, and the lead was still intact; cue Sam Salter, the defector who abandoned the Wanderers ship after his best professional season. Twisting and turning, he found the equalizing goal. It was his second goal of the night, and a torturous one at that. It felt like the Halifax noon cannon was launched directly into the Kitchen End. The horror of seeing another blown lead was almost too much to bear.
The interesting thing about fairytales is that they seem to always find a happy ending, and in Halifax this Monday, September 18th, the Wanderers had their fairytale ending: Zach Fernandez created the slightest glimpse of belief and Tomas Giraldo converted it into full-blown euphoria inside the Wanderers Grounds. Fernandez skipped past Miguel Acosta with ease after Armaan Wilson played him in, squared the ball, and Giraldo stretched just enough to get the ball into Nathan Ingham’s net.
It is hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the evening. Two brutal goals that sucked every ounce of hope out of you, only to be rewarded with the most life-giving moments that any Wanderers fan could have asked for. Moments like these are why the team is so important to the city of Halifax.
The Wanderers are now firmly ahead of York United. If my math is correct, the Wanderers are a win and a York United loss away from clinching a playoff place. So, task one, qualifying for the playoffs, is now just inches away from being achieved.
Outside of that battle, the war for second, third and fourth is still quite alive. Only four and three points out of second and third, respectively, the table could still flip on its head in the last three game weeks of the season.
Massimo Ferrin is now alone for fourth in Wanderers goalscoring history, with six in all competitions. He is nine away from tying Samual Salter (the traitor) for third in team history.
Lorenzo Callegari has tied Andre Rampersad for most assists in club history with six.
Aidan Daniels, who had an assist in this game, is now just one back of Rampersad and Callegari with five assists and moves into fourth place alone, all-time for goal contributions with ten. He is six back of Samuel Salter (again) for third place.
Yann Fillion is now only 208 minutes away from setting the record for most minutes played by a Wanderers player in a single season (all competitions), which is currently held by Andre Bona, who played 2,547 minutes back in the inaugural season.
Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan