Late Wanderers surge not enough to match league-leading Cavalry FC | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Wanderers fullback Zach Fernandez tangles for the ball against Cavalry FC's Bradley Kamdem on Sept. 12, 2023.

Late Wanderers surge not enough to match league-leading Cavalry FC

The Halifax Wanderers put all their chips in against top-seeded Cavalry FC, but couldn’t match their firepower on a damp night.

One of the all-time great television characters, the stick-up artist Omar from HBO’s The Wire, said it best: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Halifax Wanderers had their shot at a league-leading Cavalry FC side fatigued from their third road match in 11 days. A win, and the Wanderers would climb up to third in the Canadian Premier League standings. They would also find themselves just four points back of the league’s top seed. Instead? They missed. Over most of the match’s 90 minutes, the Wanderers looked like the fatigued ones—and as a result, fell 2-1 at home to their Calgary visitors. It’s not a killing blow to Halifax’s season or playoff hopes, but it sure felt like a warning shot: The path to a CPL title leads through Cavalry FC—and at the moment, it looks mightily difficult to beat them.

The Wanderers came prepared for battle. Before Halifax’s road trip to Langford, BC, head coach Patrice Gheisar had told reporters that he would likely target the Cavalry match as a chance to rotate his roster.

“We expect, over the next three games, to get every one of our 23 players a start,” he said on Sept. 7.

Instead, the Wanderers bench boss opted for his most-trusted starters against Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s Cavalry FC on Tuesday night, starting midfield linchpin Lorenzo Callegari, hot-footed winger Massimo Ferrin, Defender of the Year candidate Dan Nimick and all-time Wanderers leading goal-scorer João Morelli after resting all four on Sunday. It made little difference: Cavalry pressed the Wanderers off the ball relentlessly, leaving Gheisar’s possession-loving side grasping for answers. None came. So often this season—and especially at home—the Wanderers have managed to summon an ounce of magic when they need it most, but it was Cavalry that looked destined to win from the outset.

And on a foggy night at Wanderers Grounds, in a match where the ball and pitch were occasionally hard to see, one needed to squint for long stretches to see the Wanderers that have flummoxed opponents in 2023, a team that had—until recently—left its supporters feeling like a home win was a foregone conclusion. To be fair, the fixture congestion hasn’t been kind on Halifax either: Tuesday marked the club’s third match in nine days, but at this late stage in the season—and with how congested the playoff picture looks—the Wanderers can ill afford to rest in the way they might wish.

click to enlarge Late Wanderers surge not enough to match league-leading Cavalry FC
Trevor MacMillan / Canadian Premier League
Wanderers centre-back Dan Nimick collides for a header during a 2-1 loss to Cavalry FC on Sept. 12, 2023.

Credit to the visitors: In five CPL seasons, Wheeldon Jr.’s Cavalry sides have earned a reputation for blitzing their opponents, smothering them early and often and counting on racking up leads before the second half has barely begun. The club lived up to that reputation on Tuesday. They nearly opened the scoring in the 10th minute, as 21-year-old forward Gareth Smith-Doyle headed the ball out of a scrum in the Wanderers’ box and beat goalkeeper Yann Fillion, only to be called offside.

The Cavalry pressure continued. In the 27th minute, winger Maël Henry curled a right-footed ball from nearly 25 yards out that seemed to be in search of a teammate at the back post, only to beat Fillion and give Cavalry a 1-0 lead.

Twenty-seven minutes later, centre-back Daan Klomp—another Defender of the Year candidate—made the score 2-0 for Cavalry FC, heading home a corner kick delivered by Ali Musse to the near post.

That looked to be the nail in the coffin for Halifax. The Wanderers—and at times, the Wanderers Grounds crowd—looked listless for nearly 70 minutes, but found their gumption late when fullback Riley Ferrazzo broke into Cavalry’s box and drew a Wanderers penalty kick. Nimick stepped up for his third penalty of the season and made no mistake, hammering the ball left as Cavalry ‘keeper Marco Carducci guessed he would go right. Suddenly, Gheisar’s side found a breath of life. Substitute Callum Watson nearly levelled the score a minute later, in the 80th minute, as he found the back of the net off a Wanderers corner kick—instead, the referee whistled the play dead.

click to enlarge Late Wanderers surge not enough to match league-leading Cavalry FC
Trevor MacMillan / Canadian Premier League
Wanderers fullback Riley Ferrazzo makes a late press on Sept. 12, 2023.

Halifax’s press continued. Fuelled by Ferrazzo, Watson and fellow substitute Tiago Coimbra, the Wanderers prodded at Cavalry’s back line but couldn’t break through for an equalizer. Ferrin managed a weak shot that forced Carducci into a save, but it was a fairly comfortable one. A streaking Cale Loughrey found himself unmarked in Cavalry’s box in extra time, with the ball at his feet, but couldn’t put it into the net. Halifax managed to win two corners in stoppage time, but couldn’t muster enough with either. In the end, the Wanderers simply didn’t look like their usual selves for long enough to earn a result.

The loss to Cavalry leaves the fourth-place Wanderers at 33 points, with four games remaining. On Saturday—assuming a hurricane doesn’t change things—they’ll host Atlético Ottawa at Wanderers Grounds, with an eye on earning their ninth win of the season. Kickoff is 3pm.

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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