Halifax Wanderers seek first win of CPL season on the road in Vancouver | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia

It wasn’t the start Patrice Gheisar had been hoping for—though it sure felt familiar enough. On Saturday, Apr. 13, despite a performance in which the Halifax Wanderers held the lion’s share of possession, set pieces and scoring chances, Gheisar’s side found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline against a familiar opponent: Pacific FC. On the road in Langford, BC, the Wanderers kicked off their 2024 season with a new-look squad and plenty of opportunities to avenge their first-round 1-0 playoff loss to the Tridents from last October.

Instead, that vengeance will have to wait for another day. For the fourth time in the Wanderers’ six years in the Canadian Premier League, they opened their season against PFC—and came away without a win. (Pacific edged the Wanderers 1-0, thanks to a penalty.) But if the goals were lacking in Saturday’s loss, there were enough reasons to believe that a win is coming soon. And plenty of goals, too.

The Wanderers will get another shot at vengeance Thursday night, when they head to Langley, BC’s Willoughby Community Park Stadium for a match against the biggest winners of the CPL’s first week: Vancouver FC. Spurred by an off-season of British Columbia born-and-raised signings—including winger Ben Fisk, midfielder David Norman Jr. and fullback Paris Gee—VFC trounced Winnipeg’s Valour FC 4-1 on Sunday, Apr. 14. Entering its second year as a CPL club, Vancouver proved to be a difficult opponent for the Wanderers last year—the only team Halifax failed to beat or draw at least once when on the road.

click to enlarge Halifax Wanderers seek first win of CPL season on the road in Vancouver

Beau Chevalier / Canadian Premier League

Wanderers midfielder Lorenzo Callegari gets chased by Vancouver FC’s James Cameron during a match on July 7, 2023.

“They’re a team that went through constant changes,” Gheisar says, speaking to The Coast. “They got rid of a lot of guys, they brought in some guys that changed their system … and we struggled with that. Credit to them.

“The travel really never helped us, because we were coming off of short weeks, but no excuses. We just take the lessons and be prepared for what we’re going to see. And if anything, now we have an idea about who they are.”

Wanderers showing promise, but scoring questions remain

Gheisar gave four new Wanderers the nod on Saturday against PFC: Defender Julian Dunn, wingers Ryan Telfer and Giorgio Probo and striker Christian Volesky. All four had their moments—Probo threaded a beautiful through ball to Volesky in the match’s first half, and Volesky teed up fullback Zach Fernandez for one of the Wanderers’ best scoring chances in the second half—but there were momentary missteps, too. While Dunn played a solid match and figures to be a central part of Halifax’s defense, he was drawn into an untimely foul against PFC striker Reon Moore. It gave the Tridents their penalty shot and game-winning goal. Volesky, meanwhile, looked visibly frustrated at times by his first touch. In the first half, he looked to be free on Pacific’s goal—thanks to that Probo ball—but a heavy first touch spoiled his window to shoot. In the second half, the 31-year-old found himself alone in front of goal with only PFC ‘keeper Emil Gazdov to beat, but his right-footed volley sailed well above the net.

Reflecting on the match, Gheisar stuck by his new charges.

“We need to be patient,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Our job as a staff and everyone that’s on the bench is to support the 11 (players) on the field, whoever that 11 is. And so we’ll continue to support (them).

“Certainly, we need to get (our new players) fully up to speed with the style of play. And with their confidence, just like anything in the world… if you’re in and out, you’re never going to feel confident and valued… So we need to be committed to our players.”

While the back of the net eluded Halifax on Saturday, the Wanderers wound up with just shy of 60% possession of the ball, outshooting Pacific 13-4 and winning eight corners to PFC’s one. Probo, especially—who played in Atalanta’s youth academy in Italy—looked dangerous down the Wanderers’ right flank, and defenders Dan Nimick and Cale Loughrey even managed to join the attack. On one corner kick, midfielder Lorenzo Callegari found a streaking Andre Rampersad beyond the back post, who flipped a ball to Nimick for a near-post header that just missed its target.

Will the results be different on Thursday? Even if a win doesn’t come just yet, it feels close.

“They’re hungry to get back at it,” Gheisar says.

The Wanderers will play Vancouver FC at 11pm AT on Apr. 18. The match is available on OneSoccer.

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