Late Wanderers push falls short against Pacific FC in home playoff debut | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Wanderers forward Tiago Coimbra battles for the ball against Pacific FC defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère on Oct. 14, 2023.

Late Wanderers push falls short against Pacific FC in home playoff debut

Despite holding the bulk of possession against their coastal rivals, the Halifax Wanderers couldn’t find their offensive touch—or a bit of luck when they needed it most.

Sometimes, there isn’t much to say about fate and its cruelties beyond what Ray once said in Trailer Park Boys: “That’s the way she goes. Sometimes she goes; sometimes she doesn’t. She didn’t go.” At home in front of a sell-out crowd of 6,500 at the Wanderers Grounds, in a match where Halifax held 72% of possession and outshot visitors Pacific FC 14-8, the Wanderers couldn’t get a shot to go where they needed it most: In the back of the net.

And in a game where Halifax held not just home field advantage, but were the better-rested team—PFC having flown across four time zones on a mere two-and-a-half days’ rest—it was the Wanderers who looked more error-prone in a match that simply wouldn’t yield their way, no matter how much they might’ve wanted it to. In the end, Halifax fell 1-0 at home to the Tridents. A wonderful season is over, sooner than many wished it would be—never mind if the Wanderers already exceeded their pre-season expectations. Way she goes.

The Wanderers had their chances on Saturday. Twice in the second half, Halifax hit the crossbar on shots that had bested PFC ‘keeper Emil Gazdov. Two more times, the Wanderers seemed sure to score on headers from centre-back Dan Nimick and midfielder Mo Omar, only for Pacific’s defenders to clear the ball off the goal line. Midfielder Lorenzo Callegari tried his luck from distance—and even forced Gazdov into a save—but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“The bounces weren’t really going our way,” Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar told reporters after the match. “Everything was a bit short; everything was a bit long. We take the experience. It is really difficult to take it, because I still think we did enough to get something out of it, but we didn’t—and that’s the cruelty, or the beautiful part of this game. It depends on which end you are on today.”

In the end, PFC had just enough firepower to edge the Wanderers and earn a 1-0 result—and even still, the visitors’ goal was the benefit of Halifax’s misfortune: Wanderers fullback Zach Fernandez, trying to clear a bit of danger in the 37th minute, put the ball into his own net. Way she goes.

Credit Pacific winger Kekuta Manneh for his run, and credit midfielder Manny Aparicio for his relentlessness. On another night, the Wanderers’ chances might’ve broken their way. Instead, it’s PFC that will advance to the 2023 Canadian Premier League semifinal.

The Wanderers weren’t without fault in this match. Too often, Halifax misplaced passes and allowed their opponents opportunities to counter by not taking care of the ball when they had it. Even more often, however, they were simply too passive—content to play an extra pass in possession, rather than take their chances and put a ball on goal. It could be argued, fairly, that Gheisar didn’t make enough use of one of his most gifted attacking weapons, fullback Wesley Timoteo, opting to keep him on the bench until the 57th minute. Halifax looked most dangerous on set pieces with Timoteo curling the ball into the box with his left foot; indeed, he’s one of the best in the league at it. Would another 57 minutes of those crosses have helped the Wanderers? It isn’t hard to imagine so. But his replacement in the Wanderers’ starting lineup, Jake Ruby, was hardly a slouch either. Sometimes, the goals simply don’t come. She didn’t go.

Thus ends a season Gheisar calls a “rollercoaster.”
“We stuck to our principles. I’m so proud of the group for remaining with our identity and continuing to play... I wish there were more games that we could have played to see what we were made of, but I’m really proud of the way we grew.”

The Wanderers grew, indeed—not just on the pitch, but in the eyes and hearts of their supporters, who stood and applauded them well past the 90-minute mark on Oct. 14. Because this, too, is true: Even in the match’s dying minutes, the belief that Halifax could summon a miracle worthy of the moment never waned. That’s a rare thing.

Credit Gheisar and his Wanderers for that. Credit Callegari and Nimick, for a pair of MVP-calibre seasons. Credit winger Massimo Ferrin, who looks ready to compete for the CPL’s Golden Boot trophy in 2024. Credit Cale Loughrey, who emerged as a bona fide centre-back in his own right. Credit Fernandez, the heart-on-his-sleeve fullback who doesn’t know how to quit. Credit Doneil Henry, who joined the group mid-season and offered not just his years of international pedigree, but humility. Credit the ball kids, who put in a masterclass performance on the afternoon. Credit Wanderers president Derek Martin for daring to imagine that a team in Halifax could offer moments like Saturday’s.

The work begins on 2024. Gheisar, for one, is ready.

“Hopefully, the results will go our way and we will go further next year. I can’t wait for it.”

About The Author

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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