HALIFAX — When HFX Wanderers take the field against Vaughan (Ont.) on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Canadian Championship, they’ll see quite a few Wanderers kits in the crowd.
Utility man Matthew Arnone’s friends and family will show their Wanderers pride this week at the Ontario Soccer Centre. The former Vaughan player lived minutes from the stadium, meaning he’ll have his own Wanderers supporters’ section after joining the club earlier this season.
Arnone brought multiple Wanderers shirts for some of them to wear, all with his name and No. 23 emblazoned on the back.
“I’ll be feeling some nostalgia. It’s going to be emotional but I will approach it like any other game,” Arnone said, pointing out he was a part of the League1 Ontario team’s set up for about seven years.
Having been a part of Vaughan’s league and cup double-winning team last season, he knows all about their approach.
A number of players followed Arnone’s path to Canadian Premier League teams after that campaign but several are still there and he’s expecting they’ll be fired up playing against a top tier Canadian outfit.
The chance for Pro-Am sides to compete against professional clubs is what makes the Battle of the North so intriguing.
“They’ve got nothing to lose, so we need to come in with humility and work hard and erase it from our minds they are a club at a lower level,” Arnone warned. “It’s going to be fun playing against them and I’m ready.”
Wanderers striker Tomasz Skublak will also be in familiar territory at the stadium, which holds about 2,000 people, having also played for Vaughan. Wanderers coach Stephen Hart said both players’ insight and knowledge of the opposition will come in handy for his club.
Hart, though, is more concerned about his own team. His message to the players is for them to carry on doing what they’ve been doing in the league.
And while the team go into the match coming off a 1-0 loss to Valour, it was a performance that Hart took positives from, seeing his side attack well from both wide positions and create enough chances to get something out of the match.
“We have played better in every game so far and regardless of who you play, the attitude must remain the same and if you don’t follow that, it could be dangerous,” Hart said.
Wednesday night’s match in Vaughan is the first of a two-legged home and away tie. The return leg is set for May 22 at Wanderers Grounds. The winning team will play Valour FC in the next round.