PREVIEW: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. CS Saint-Laurent — 2024 TELUS Canadian Championship
Canadian Premier League

2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Preliminary Round
Halifax Wanderers FC vs. CS Saint-Laurent
May 2, 2024 at 7 p.m. AT/6 p.m. ET
Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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The final match of the preliminary round in this year’s Canadian Championship takes us to the east coast, where the Halifax Wanderers of the Canadian Premier League look to jumpstart their season against Ligue1 Quebec side CS Saint-Laurent.

Three games into the CPL campaign, the Wanderers find themselves still without a point, having lost all three encounters. Their home opener last Saturday saw them beaten handily by Atlético Ottawa, who took full advantage of Halifax’s star midfielder Lorenzo Callegari being sent off just before the 20th minute.

That’s why, for the Wanderers, this pivot to the cup competition might come at a perfect time, as they find themselves with an opportunity to bank that first win of the year and, in doing so, book a two-legged home-and-away quarter-final tie with Major League Soccer club Toronto FC.

It’s easier said than done though, despite the Wanderers’ opposition being a semi-pro side. Saint-Laurent won the Ligue1 Quebec championship by 10 points last season for their first ever title, and they’ll be excited to make their Canadian Championship debut.

Their 2024 season began on April 20, and Saint-Laurent are unbeaten through two matches, with a 0-0 draw against Laval in their opener and a 7-2 win over St-Hubert on Saturday.

They’ll be looking to make an impact on behalf of L1QC, after the league’s previous two champions (first CS Mont-Royal Outremont, then FC Laval) went scoreless in first-round losses to Forge FC the past two years. It’s been six years since a Ligue1 Quebec side won a Canadian Championship game, with AS Blainville’s two-legged victory over Oakville Blue Devils in 2018 being the most recent success.

For Halifax, this cup game presents them with a massive opportunity. The club has been desperate for another matchup with an MLS team since they played Toronto FC at the Wanderers Grounds two years ago, and lost a heartbreaking 2-1 decision in front of a packed house.

Head coach Patrice Gheisar said Wednesday that he and his staff have made sure not to discuss the prospect of another TFC matchup with their players, preferring instead to keep the focus on this game. Still, he conceded that it remains a major incentive for the group.

“Our players do know the draw, they do know what’s next,” he said. “I’m hoping that doesn’t mean we take the eye off the prize, and we come in with the effort that we need to win against a very good, hungry team.”

Last season, Halifax’s cup run sputtered at the first hurdle; they took on Atlético Ottawa on neutral ground at York Lions Stadium, and although they scored first, Atleti went on to win 3-1. That was only Gheisar’s second game in charge of the Wanderers though, playing an Ottawa side not far removed from winning the CPL regular season title.

As they return to the Canadian Championship this year, the Wanderers are a club with a little more recent success on their résumé, and they’d love nothing more than to build up some confidence at home and book another marquee matchup at the Wanderers Grounds.

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  • Wanderers familiar with L(ea/i)gue1 competition: Although it’s hard to know too much about CS Saint-Laurent in particular, the Canadian semi-professional level is something the Wanderers have plenty of experience with. Historically in the Canadian Championship, they’ve played the League1 Ontario champions (Vaughan Azzurri in 2019) and Ligue1 Quebec winners (AS Blainville in 2021) and advanced both times, although both were close contests and they actually lost their home leg against Vaughan. Halifax head coach Patrice Gheisar, who was Vaughan’s manager back then and spent close to a decade working with the L1O side, knows the League1 level of play perhaps better than anyone, and a handful of his Wanderers players — Massimo Ferrin and Riley Ferrazzo, for instance — have very recent experience at that level. Zachary Fernandez has also played in Ligue1 Quebec specifically, suiting up for Blainville in 2021, including against the Wanderers. Gheisar revealed Wednesday that he and a few other CPL teams have had some of the Saint-Laurent players on trial recently, so there may be some familiarity on that end as well.


  • Saint-Laurent offer serious attacking threat: In last year’s L1QC season, CS Saint-Laurent were the highest scoring team in the league by a margin of 23 goals, over the course of a 22-game season. They scored a total of 68, or an average of 3.09 goals per game. They also scored 16 goals in four games en route to winning the Coupe L1QC, conceding just twice. This year, much of the same cast has returned to the team; the league’s Ballon d’Or winner Safwane Mlah is one to watch in midfield, and Loic Kwemi will be the biggest threat up front after scoring 17 goals last season. In their 7-2 win over St-Hubert on Saturday, Mlah scored twice and Kwemi potted one, while former Vancouver FC forward Mouhamadou Kane scored a hat trick. This Saint-Laurent side also features a familiar face to the Wanderers Grounds, as former Halifax fullback Obeng Tabi has been patrolling their flank since 2023. One other thing to note: CS Saint-Laurent have four players (Mlah, Kwemi, Tabi and Aylan Khenoussi) who recently represented Canada at the Concacaf Futsal Championship. They’ll likely bring a highly technical, quick-paced brand of play.


  • Wanderers need ways to unlock defence: Halifax were a team that scored plenty of goals in 2023, finding different ways to do damage to opposition defences with their fluid ball movement, quick switches of play and dangerous crosses. This year, after three games, they’ve scored just once, and Riley Ferrazzo’s goal — albeit a well-worked pass and finish — came as little consolation at the end of a loss to Ottawa. Gheisar knows his side needs to be more of a threat going forward, which means getting more touches in the penalty area in shooting positions. No doubt, a preseason injury to Massimo Ferrin has hurt them after he was the club’s best attacker in 2023, but as Ferrin returns to full match fitness they need to find him in the half-spaces. Christian Volesky, meanwhile, has a strong career track record of scoring goals, but has been quite isolated in his appearances so far, being limited to just 11 touches in 60 minutes against Vancouver FC before being dropped to the bench against Atlético (though he managed 14 touches in just over 15 minutes in that one, which could be a positive sign). The Wanderers will be very keen on getting him on the board in this game.


First meeting between these clubs.


“From being on the other side, I know [Saint-Laurent’s] players will give it everything they’ve got. For them, this is a major part of their season, so they’ll come out flying and give it everything they’ve got. So the excitement and effort they’ll give, we need to make sure that whatever we get, we match it and exceed it.” — Halifax Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar