Atlético Ottawa to host new-look Halifax Wanderers in 2023 season opener

Atlético Ottawa and Halifax Wanderers FC now know how they will begin their 2023 Canadian Premier League campaign — against each other at Ottawa’s TD Place on Saturday, April 15 (1 p.m. ET).

Halifax will be beginning the Patrice Gheisar era, after the former Vaughan Azzurri boss was named the second head coach in Wanderers history, taking over from Stephen Hart this winter. With the new head coach also comes a lot of new players. Original Wanderers players Christian Oxner, Peter Schaale, and Akeem Garcia left the club this off-season, along with Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Cory Bent, and Pierre Lamothe, among others. In response, Halifax has made some exciting signings, including League1 Ontario MVP Massimo Ferrin (who worked with Gheisar at Vaughan), goalkeeper Yann Fillion, and Canadian youth national team standout Tiago Coimbra.

The home side, the reigning regular season champions, will be looking to begin another journey that they hope will end in a second consecutive trip to the CPL Final — which is where their 2022 season ended in defeat in October. They’ll be motivated to go one step further and win it all in 2023, and continue to build the crowds that grew in size and passion as the 2022 season went on — culminating in 15,000 attending the CPL final against Forge FC. There have also been some changes for the CPL’s capital club, with Ballou Tabla, Drew Beckie, and Brian Wright among the departed players, but recruitment is underway to find their replacements.

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These sides’ most recent meeting at TD Place, in August of last year, was one of the best games of 2022 — a five-goal thriller that included a pair of goals in second-half stoppage time. Sam Salter thought he’d rescued a point for Halifax on the road with a late equalizer, but Ottawa was able to dig deep and Iván Pérez scored a late winner. Ottawa won all four of their meetings in 2022 by a combined score of 8-3, payback for a 2021 season in which the Wanderers won three of their five contests, with Ottawa winning once and the lone draw.

Their first game between the two in Ottawa last season is one that Halifax fans particularly want to forget, a 1-0 defeat to the home side and the game in which then-reigning Player of the Year João Morelli’s season was ended prematurely with an ACL injury, in just the second match of the year. This fixture has produced several exciting and heated battles, including one in August 2021 that featured four goals, seven bookings, and one ill-advised gesture in a 2-2 draw at TD Place.

Here’s another look at the match from last August:

Could this be the start of a championship season in Ottawa? Will Patrice Gheisar’s new-look team get off to a winning start as he rebuilds the Wanderers?

With two exciting and ambitious teams eager to start their season on a high note, and with a history of putting on a show together, April 15 is definitely a date to circle on your calendar.

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