Halifax Wanderers topple Pacific FC in rainy 2-1 victory | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
HFX Wanderers FC goalkeeper Yann Fillion picks up the ball during his club's 2-1 victory over Pacific FC on July 11, 2023.

Halifax Wanderers topple Pacific FC in rainy 2-1 victory

The Halifax-based Canadian Premier League club is turning the Wanderers Grounds into a fortress again.

There’s a well-worn English football adage that’s used—often to the point of meme-ery—to judge a soccer team or player’s bona fides: If they’re any good, can they still do it on a cold, wet and windy night in Stoke? Playing at the Wanderers Grounds has begun to take on that feel in recent waterlogged weeks: If there’s one guarantee, it’s the rain. It came in sheets on Tuesday afternoon and lingered into the evening, enough to delay the Halifax Wanderers’ match with league-leading Langford, BC side Pacific FC for an hour as referees and Canadian Premier League officials hemmed and hawed over cancelling it outright.

The match prevailed. So, too, did the Wanderers—who are looking like a team capable of just about anything at the moment.

Over 90 minutes, the Halifax-based soccer club outshot and outmatched the 2021 CPL champions in a 2-1 victory that never seemed in doubt, even when it was close. Through mist, blankets of fog and drums that clattered and banged for the better part of two hours, the Wanderers showed more than a glimmer of what first-year head coach Patrice Gheisar promised upon his Halifax arrival:

“The emphasis will be attacking-oriented, commit numbers in the attack, make lots of passes, take chances and bring that joy into [the club],” Gheisar told The Coast in November.

All of that was on display Tuesday evening.

There were bursts of inspired attacking. Crafty through balls. Tight defending—and yes, even a bit of CONCACAF-worthy gamesmanship. It was Halifax’s most complete performance of 2023.

A chip on the shoulder

Halifax entered Tuesday’s match looking to shake the hangover of a 2-1 weekend road loss to league debutants Vancouver FC. But they weren’t the only team looking at the scoresheet for motivation; visiting Pacific FC arrived at the Wanderers Grounds with hopes of erasing the memory of a 2-1 home loss to Cavalry FC on July 8.

Halifax nearly drew blood within the first two minutes of the match. Wanderers midfielder Aidan Daniels found himself with room to maneuver in the Tridents’ end and slid a ball through PFC’s back line that found a streaking Tomas Giraldo with no defenders in front of him. The 20-year-old fired a shot past PFC goalkeeper (and former Wanderers ‘keeper) Kieran Baskett, but it went wide right of the net. Minutes later, Giraldo looked to be in on goal yet again, only to be called offside.

It wasn’t much longer before the Wanderers Grounds crowd had reason to cheer: In the 16th minute, forward Massimo Ferrin broke in on the Tridents’ goal after an opportunistic through pass from winger Fumpa Mwandwe. Ferrin lasered a shot just inside the left post and past Baskett to make it 1-0 for Halifax. The goal was Ferrin’s third in the 2023 CPL season and fourth in all competitions—top among the Wanderers.

click to enlarge Halifax Wanderers topple Pacific FC in rainy 2-1 victory
Trevor MacMillan / Canadian Premier League
Wanderers winger Massimo Ferrin lines up a shot against Pacific FC on July 11, 2023.

He wasn’t finished, either. Four minutes into the second half, the Mississauga, Ont. native steamrolled into PFC’s end, drawing a crowd of defenders and freeing teammate Callum Watson on the left wing. Ferrin threaded a pass to Watson. Watson curled a shot from just inside the box and found the top right corner of the net to lift the Wanderers to a 2-0 lead. The goal sent the raucous crowd of supporters in the Kitchen into hysterics.

Second half drama gives Wanderers man advantage

The match wasn’t without its theatrics. Pacific FC was reduced to 10 players in the 56th minute after midfielder Sean Young was issued consecutive yellows for a hasty challenge on Daniels and a brief shoving match with fullback Zach Fernandez. (Fernandez dropped to the ground and sold the call. The beautiful game? Maybe not, but it’s effective.)

Halifax nearly made it a 3-0 lead in the 68th minute. Daniels—it’s always Daniels making things happen, isn’t it?—ended up with a shot on goal from inside PFC’s box. No luck for the 24-year-old this time: The ball caromed off a defender.

Pacific FC made it 2-1 in the 87th minute after the Wanderers’ back line failed to corral a loose ball in the nine-yard box. PFC centre-back Amer Didic put the ball in the net, but the damage came too late—the West Coast club simply ran out of time to equalize. The Tridents had one last chance in extra time, as winger Ayman Sellouf drew a foul from Dan Nimick near the Wanderers’ 18-yard box, but Sellouf’s free kick went straight into the Wanderers’ wall.

Morelli makes his return

Former 2021 CPL Player of the Year João Morelli earned a rousing applause from the Halifax crowd on Tuesday. The fan favourite made his first Wanderers appearance since tearing his ACL on April 16, 2022, and played 12 minutes.

click to enlarge Halifax Wanderers topple Pacific FC in rainy 2-1 victory
Trevor MacMillan / Canadian Premier League
HFX Wanderers FC midfielder João Morelli warms up on July 11, 2023.

With the win, the Wanderers improve to four wins, seven draws and three losses, and a total of 19 points through 14 matches. Halifax also inch closer to fourth place in CPL standings, currently held by Toronto’s York United FC (with 20 points through 15 matches).

It’s a short turnaround for the Wanderers; the club heads to Calgary next to face third-place Cavalry FC on Saturday at ATCO Field (5pm AT).

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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