Final Score: Pacific 1-1 Halifax Wanderers Goalscorers: Reid 32'; Daniels 84' Game of the 2023 season: 26 CPL match: 393​

Match in a minute or less

On a sunny Saturday evening of CPL action at Starlight Stadium, Pacific FC and the Halifax Wanderers combined for a hard-fought 1-1 draw in their first meeting of the season in all competitions. To begin the game, Pacific started out brightly, as they looked to put the disappointment of a midweek elimination to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship behind them. As a result, they grabbed a first-half lead through Adonijah Reid, who did well to nab his first CPL goal with a well-taken left-footed finish from inside the box. Yet, eager to not leave without anything, however, the Wanderers did well to stay in the game in the second half. Through that, they were then rewarded for their efforts thanks to Aidan Daniels, who slotted home an 85th-minute equalizer to ensure that both teams would split the spoils in the end.

Three Observations

Young and Callegari shine in battle of early-season midfield standouts:​

Through six games of CPL action, there aren't many who have shone brighter across the league than midfielders Sean Young and Lorenzo Callegari for Pacific and Halifax, respectively. Two different profiles of midfielder, with Young serving as an all-action box-to-box midfielder for Pacific, while Callegari has been a tempo-setting defensive midfielder for the Wanderers, it was a good chance to see the two pitted up against one another for the first time all season. Turns out, it'd be quite the battle. For Callegari, it was an especially big game, as he'd just returned from a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Because of that, he was motivated to pick up where he left off before that forced break, where he'd played a huge role in the Wanderers grabbing five draws in their first five games (for context, they dropped their game without him 3-0 to York last weekend). That was clear right from the start, as Callegari came out with a purpose in possession, eager to get on the ball right away. Along with his usual defensive work, as he dealt with the tireless task of defending the likes of Young, Manny Aparicio and Steffan Yeates in Pacific's midfield, he looked exactly as he had before the suspension. Most importantly, he avoided any supplemental discipline in this game, just the second CPL match where that's happened for him, something that Halifax will be quite pleased with. "When you've got a player like Lorenzo (Callgeari) in midfield, it's always gonna be a lot easier to play the style of play we want to play," Wanderers' defender, Daniel Nimick, said afterwards. "I don't think that there's any player in the CPL who can control the game from the midfield like he can with his passing rate, his ability to find the space, to guard the ball. As a centre back, it's a dream, because you've always got that person you can trust in him to keep the ball, and I think he was a huge lift for us today." Yet, for how good Callegari's performance was, he was always going to have his hands full going up against Young, and that became clear early on. Eager to get on the ball after a bit of a quiet performance by his standards versus the Whitecaps in their Canadian Championship tie in midweek, Young was quite involved right from the beginning for Pacific. As a result, he managed to create a couple of chances inside the first half, before nabbing an assist on Reid's opener, getting him up to two goals and three assists on the CPL season (two goals, four assists in all competitions). Safe to say, it was the exact bounce-back performance that his team needed from him, as one big thing that has been asked of him is more consistency, something that a game like this was a great example of. "Sean was great today," Reid said of his teammate. "He's a workhorse, he's all over the pitch, and he can get goals and get assists for us, which is great." Through those performances, that allowed both teams to set the tempo in the game, in what was an entertaining battle tactically. On the Wanderers' end, they were their usual fluid selves on the ball, as they tried to wear down Pacific with their relentless possession play. Which, to their credit, paid off for them eventually. It didn't come in the first half, in what was mostly controlled by Pacific, but it paid off in the second half, which was mostly all Wanderers. That's reflected in the statistics, as the Expected Goals (xG) was 0.54 to 0.46 for the Wanderers in the first half, with the xG per shot sitting at 0.15 for Pacific versus 0.06 for Halifax, showing the quality of Pacific's attempts as they had the better looks at goal. For comparison, the xG was then 1.46 to 0.09 for the Wanderers in the second half, as they managed to completely swing the tempo of the game with their play. Ultimately, a large part of that appeared to be the fact that Pacific had played just days prior, but for a team on the road in a tough environment, it was a statement performance by Halifax, one that they had to be proud of. "This is a great statement from this young group coming off a really bad game," Wanderers head coach, Patrice Gheisar, said afterwards. "I think it sends a message to the league that we have our goals, and one of our goals is not to lose two games in a row, and I thought the guys were brilliant and very brave to get (the point today)." As for those Tridents, they'll be pleased with how they played in that first half, as when Young and Manny Aparicio got going, they had some good looks in possession. They'll be frustrated with how things finished for them, as they had several opportunities to put the game away, but given the circumstances, it's understandable that their legs caught up to them in the end. "For sure, we were tired," Pacific's head coach, James Merriman, said afterward." We were tired, but it's frustrating because we were up 1-0, and I think we need to finish that game off and take all three points." "It's frustrating to drop points at home."

Baskett puts in big performance in first match against old club:​

Yet, while Pacific will be frustrated with how they overall defended in the second half, especially in terms of their pressure and defensive shape, one big positive across that stanza had to be the play of Kieran Baskett. Making just his second league start in seven games, and third in all competitions, after coming over from the Halifax Wanderers this offseason, it was a huge statement for the 21-year-old against his old club, which is also his hometown team given that he is also a Halifax native. Having spent most of the season watching the promising young 19-year-old Emil Gazdov take the reins in net for Pacific, it was a huge chance for Baskett, as while Gazdov has had flashes of brilliance, he's also shown at times that he's a young goalkeeper playing an unforgiving position where players his age often struggle for a reason. Therefore, Pacific will have to be pleased with what Baskett ended up showing them in this game. Ultimately, he did not get the win nor the clean sheet to show for his efforts, but it was a good performance from him, as he ended up making three saves on approximately 1.1 xG on target. Plus, he made two of his saves while his team had the lead, including a stop on Wesley Timoteo in the 58th minute that very well could've saved a point for Pacific, as it would've given the Wanderers plenty of time to grab the win had they scored then. Plus, there wasn't much he could do about the goal he conceded, either, as it came from a high-quality look right at the edge of the six-yard box after a cutback, which is about the worst-case scenario for a goalkeeper to deal with. And given that he'd saved his team with his stops prior, they certainly weren't about to start suggesting anything else. In fact, on a day where they actually had their worst performance of the season in terms of defensive metrics, they'll be happy that Baskett was back there to help them keep the draw, because if not, things could've gone even worse for them, all things considered. "I thought Kieran (Baskett) was good today," Merriman noted. "We wanted to play out of the back a little bit more in the first half than we did, but again, he hasn't been playing as much so he's still finding his own comfort and his own confidence. So I thought he did well considering, he made some good saves when asked, and it's disappointing for us to not finish the game and get a clean sheet here."

Wanderers turn to false nine with mixed results:​

After being shut out in two of their last three games, a number that could've easily been three in three had it not been for a two-minute burst against Cavalry where they nabbed two, Halifax knew that they needed goals in this game. Especially after being shut out at home by York at home, they knew that they had to tweak things up as they faced a Pacific team that has had one of the best defences in the league all season long. As a result, the Wanderers decided to turn to a bit of a new trump card among the different looks Gheisar has thrown out there tactically - the false nine. Instead of turning to strikers Kosi Nwafornso, Tiago Coimbra, Théo Collomb or Lifumpe Mwandwe, it was wide player, Massimo Ferrin, who got the nod up front. Tasked with playing between lines and drawing Pacific's centre backs up the field, Ferrin instantly provided a different look than the other Wanderers forwards, who despite being different profiles, all like to stretch defenders with their runs. Yet, while the idea was sound in principle, it didn't have the intended effect to begin the game. Ferrin found some good pockets, but Pacific's centre backs and midfielders did well to close down space as soon as it became available to him. As a result, the Wanderers' best looks early on came through their wide players, but often they were let down by a lack of natural striking options when it came to them playing a final ball. Except that didn't account for part two of the plan - then turning to the bench. Having allowed Ferrin to play up front for 75 minutes, it was clear that his relentless movement had started to wear out the Pacific defenders, as the Wanderers really started to take over the game. As a result, Gheisar brought on striker Tiago Coimbra for the last 15 minutes, with the 19-year-old's mission being quite simple - stretch the lines and make things happen against those tired legs. It'd work out to perfection, as well. Less than 10 minutes after his insertion into the game, it was Coimbra who'd run in behind Pacific's defenders and play a cutback to Daniels to tie the game, as he profited from the work that Ferrin put in prior. "He's only 18 years old," Gheisar made sure to stress of Coimbra afterwards. "He's one of our really young guys, and we have a lot of good young players, but we're trying to find out who fits where." "Tiago is a very important part of this team, though" Ultimately, it didn't then lead to a late winner, but it was a huge response for the Wanderers, as it was the first time that they'd rescued points in a second half while trailing this season. For a team whose ability to hold on to leads has been put into question (they'd squandered four leads in six games before this one), it was a good show of character, especially after their big loss last week. For a team that is adapting to a new coach, and has lots of players getting their first taste of professional soccer, that's huge, and is the sort of moments that Gheisar will be looking to build off of. Therefore, while the false nine experiment wasn't trending in the right direction at half time, based on all of that, it eventually ended up being a resounding success for these Wanderers. "We felt that with Massimo (Ferrin) playing between lines playing as a false nine, that we were going to be able to get more opportunities," Gheisar explained. "They're a great team with two top center backs, but I thought our plan really worked, we had a total of 18 shots and three big chances, but unfortunately only got one goal from it." Player of the Match

Lorenzo Callegari, Halifax Wanderers In his return from suspension, Callegari showed why his team missed him last week, as he was very influential on both sides of the ball for the Wanderers in this game. Offensively, he finished with 84/92 passes completed, five key passes, one shot, two dribbles, 10/13 long balls and 19 passes into the final third, while adding two tackles, two interceptions, seven recoveries, and seven out of 11 duels won defensively. Ultimately, it was the exact sort of performance that Halifax needed in midfield, and it helped them grab the draw in the end.

What’s next?

Pacific will get set for a second-ever BC CPL derby against Vancouver FC, the first one hosted by the Eagles, this Friday, June 2nd at Willoughby Community Park in Langley (7:00 p.m. PT). Meanwhile, the Wanderers will head to the Nation's capital, as a date with Atlético Ottawa awaits them on Saturday, June 3rd at TD Place (7:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. AT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.

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