HFX Wanderers prepare to enter ‘lion’s den’ for inaugural match on Van Isle

HALIFAX – The wait for the HFX Wanderers season to start is almost over.

All that’s left is, well, the longest road trip in the Canadian Premier League, as the club heads to Vancouver Island to take on Pacific FC on Sunday, April 28th (4:00 p.m. PT/7:00 p.m ET, available to watch on OneSoccer).

“I’m quite impressed with the team,” midfielder Elton John told “We put in a lot of work over the last couple of weeks. I think it’s starting to pay off.

“This week is more about concentration. Our concentration has to be at an all-time high for us, especially going away to Pacific.

“We’re going into the lion’s den, as we say, not knowing anything about Pacific.”

It’s the first weekend in league history, meaning it’s the first game for both teams. Despite some friendly matches between CPL sides in pre-season, the weekend’s offering represents a great unknown.

“To be honest, I don’t even know what to think about because I don’t know what’s going to come, really,” said defender Peter Schaale of being part of the first Wanderers game.

“It’s a new league, a new team, seven new teams, it’s the first time for everyone and not just us. It’s super exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

The mystery doesn’t mean expectations aren’t high with three points on the line in the first of ten spring-season games.

“I’m feeling great, I’m really happy that we’re finally being able to play,” said 32-year-old Columbian striker Luis Alberto Perea, a player that has nearly 100 career goals while playing in Venezuela, Peru, Equador, the U.S., Chile, Brazil and El Salvador.

“I have really high hopes for me and for the team, I really think we can win over there and we’re definitely going there with that mindset.”

When he makes his first appearance for the Wanderers, Perea will put his name in the record books in more than one way.

“I want to be part of history, the first Columbian to play here in the Canadian Premier League. For me, I’m really proud of this,” Perea proudly said of the game versus Pacific, that like every game for the veteran, he’s approaching like a Champions League final.

HFX Wanderers midfielder Juan Diego Gutierrez during pre-season in Punta Cana. (Photo: Nora Stankovic/CPL).
HFX Wanderers midfielder Juan Diego Gutierrez during pre-season in Punta Cana. (Photo: Nora Stankovic/CPL).

Valour FC’s Nicolás Galvis was born in Columbia but represents Canada internationally after immigrating to Canada at age seven.

When asked if the attack-minded Perea wants to score the first goal in club history, or if the players even talk about it, the Columbian wasn’t shy in his ambitions.

“Not only to just score the first goal, I just want to be the top scorer of the league. It’s like something I have always in mind, every time that I go to a new league. I push myself to do that and hopefully that will happen,” Perea said.

Since returning from training camp in the Dominican Republic, the main focus at HFX Wanderers training has been on defending, according to defender Peter Schaale.

“We definitely focus on ourselves,” said Schaale, who last week was named the Male Athlete of the Year for Cape Breton University for his performance in his third year of U SPORTS soccer.

“We want to play our game. We play possession-based and we want to defend well, we want to play forward, keep the ball, play quick short passes.”

Meanwhile, John explained the game is important for him personally and for the team, as they make the 4,476km flight — the third-longest road trip in top-flight soccer.

“A result for us would be great, especially playing away from home for the first time,” John said, pointing out the quality of all the teams in the league.

“I think if we hit the ground running with three points, it’s going to give us confidence for the upcoming games ahead.”

As for what viewers can expect when they watch the Wanderers for the first time, John is leaving room for mystery in terms of playing style. There’s no question about the expected compete level.

“They will have to view it for themselves, they’ll have to come out and see what we have to offer. But one thing I can say to the fans is you’re going to get 100 percent every game — win, loss or draw we’re going to go out on the pitch, we’re going to fight the other team. We’re going to represent Halifax to the best of our ability and I think the fans have a lot to look forward to.”

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