PREVIEW: Halifax Wanderers @ Vancouver FC — April 18
Canadian Premier League

2024 CPL Regular Season — Match #5
Vancouver FC vs. Halifax Wanderers FC
April 18, 2024 at 7 p.m. PT/11 p.m. AT
Willoughby Community Park in Langley, B.C.
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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The Canadian Premier League season is officially in full swing on the west coast, as Vancouver FC will be back on their home pitch in Langley on Thursday hoping to be the first team to get to two wins in 2024.

Standing in VFC’s way this week are the Halifax Wanderers, who continue their British Columbia road trip in search of their first goal and points of the campaign.

Vancouver were perhaps the most impressive team of the CPL’s opening weekend, as they came from a goal down to rout Valour FC 4-1. It was a celebratory evening at Willoughby Park, where they scored a club record four times, with three goals coming from newcomers to the squad for 2024 — Moses Dyer, Paris Gee and David Norman.

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So, for the first time in club history, VFC found themselves in first place on Monday morning, although we’re just one game into the year. Still, as they begin their second season, the Eagles have serious ambition to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish, and they’re off to about as good a start as they could’ve hoped.

However, Vancouver will face a stiff test this week when the Wanderers come to town. Patrice Gheisar’s Halifax side didn’t have the start they wanted to 2024, as they lost 1-0 to Pacific as Ayman Sellouf scored from the penalty spot.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad performance from the Wanderers though, as they outshot Pacific 13 to 4 and had a hair under 60 per cent possession, although they couldn’t quite find a way through to score the equalizer they needed. The loss was a frustrating one, and Gheisar admitted postmatch he felt his team should’ve had at least a point if not more, but that performance will be fresh in their memories as they hop across the Georgia Strait to play the other B.C. club in the CPL.

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These two sides may have just one year of history between each other, but Gheisar and Afshin Ghotbi have still contested some entertaining battles. Halifax were actually the team Vancouver had the most success against in 2023, winning two and drawing one of their four meetings for seven points.

In fact, the Wanderers lost 2-1 both times they visited Langley last year, including to a 95th-minute own goal in late September. Back in Halifax, however, things played out quite differently; one of the most emphatic wins of the Wanderers’ season was a 3-0 triumph over VFC at home in mid-August.

All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, FuboTV, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.


  • Vancouver hope to build on attacking outburst: While Vancouver definitely looked in 2023 like a team with a potential to score plenty of goals, they never really managed a breakout like they had in the 4-1 win against Valour on Sunday. They only scored three goals twice (one of them in a 6-3 loss), and all but one of their seven victories was by just one goal. In their home opener, however, they managed to kill off a game by taking advantage of an exposed opponent after they took the lead — in much the same way some teams did to VFC last year. One early source for optimism is the partnership building between Moses Dyer and Alejandro Díaz as dual strikers (a goal for Dyer and two assists for Díaz); not many teams play with two centre-forwards anymore, but those two could be very dangerous together. Afshin Ghotbi revealed Wednesday he’s rarely played a two-striker setup in his coaching career, but suggested that it was the best option for this group to get its best players on the pitch together. “I have so many good strikers in my team I can’t keep them out,” he said. “As I’ve got more mature and older as a coach, I’ve become more of a coach that takes what I have and I try to create a system that adapts to all the quality players I have … [Dyer and Díaz] have a lot of goals in them, but also they’re both very unselfish and you see that in the way they work without the ball.”


  • Halifax settling into new-look back three? A few CPL teams experimented with playing three central defenders on opening weekend, but perhaps the most interesting to see do so was Halifax. They were incredibly successful in 2023 with a duo of Dan Nimick and Cale Loughrey, and on Saturday, Patrice Gheisar opted to insert new signing Julian Dunn in between them to make a three-man backline and push fullbacks Zach Fernandez and Wesley Timotéo further forward. It did work, with about 73 per cent of both players’ touches coming in the attacking half. It also helped get attack-minded players like Ryan Telfer and Giorgio Probo closer to the half-spaces and middle of the pitch. Could this be a solution for Gheisar to get his best players in more dangerous areas?


  • Rotation vs. consistency a key consideration: In a midweek game this early in the season, some managers might be tempted to rotate the lineup a bit, giving minutes to players who didn’t start last weekend to get them into a match rhythm as early as possible. On the other hand, with fatigue not a huge issue yet, might it be better to keep things as similar as possible to build chemistry and a solid identity? Both managers have a handful of players who will likely be key contributors this year that didn’t start on the weekend. In Vancouver, Mikaël Cantave and Kembo Kibato might be primed for bigger roles after coming off the bench on Sunday, and highly-valued U-21 stars James Cameron and Anthony White didn’t even make the 18 so they too could get some minutes. Halifax meanwhile had a stacked bench as Massimo Ferrin (eight goals, five assists in 2023), Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé and Aidan Daniels were substitutes and Vitor Dias didn’t even get on the pitch. Plenty of selection headaches for Ghotbi and Gheisar already. “We have to give everyone an opportunity to plead their case,” Gheisar said Wednesday. “We are going to rotate some guys, we’re going to keep the guys fresh. I think that desire to be consistent and motivated comes from our recruiting; if we have good people, they’re going to want that.”


Vancouver FC: Irving; Chung, Romeo, Norman, Gee; Cantave, Kibato, Garcia, Bitar; Dyer, Diaz

Halifax Wanderers: Fillion; Nimick, Dunn, Loughrey; Fernandez, Gagnon-Laparé, Callegari, Ferrazzo; Daniels, Volesky, Ferrin


Vancouver FC wins: 1 || Halifax Wanderers wins: 1 || Draws: 1

Last meeting:

Sept, 23, 2023 — Vancouver FC 2-1 Halifax Wanderers


“The Eagles have landed. I think the spirits are very high; the players are very happy with their second half [against Valour] and the result of the first match. We’ve built a team that I think we have the depth, we have the balance, we can adjust very quickly when necessary, so we just move on.” — Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi

“Our players have learned to adjust with the pressure of using every minute for preparation. Our staff is wonderful, working around the clock to not only prepare for the opponent ahead but take the reflection from the match before. But in the earlier stages of the [season] we’re trying to find the right personnel and we’re really focusing on ourselves.” — Halifax Wanderers head coach Patrice Gheisar