Peter Schaale’s teammates wanted to give him a fitting farewell Saturday afternoon at the Wanderers Grounds.
The German defender is leaving the Halifax Wanderers to return to Cape Breton University so the team acknowledged his departure with a pre-game ceremony. And even though a decisive victory would’ve made a great ending, in many ways there was something more fitting about the Wanderers playing to a 0-0 draw against Cavalry FC.
“It always feels good to have a clean sheet,” said Schaale, the backbone of Halifax’s back line. “I think it was all-around a decent performance. They’re a good team and I think we played well. We kept possession for some spells pretty well and we were patient. Overall I think maybe if we get lucky we could go away with three points, even. I’m just happy that we got the clean sheet and got the point against Calgary. The atmosphere was great.”
Schaale received personalized cheers from the near capacity crowd throughout the game. They chanted “Thank you Peter” numerous times and made extra noise whenever he made a nice play. He and the team returned the affection with a show of appreciation to the fans at the end of the game, culminating with Schaale leading a stadium clapping sequence by banging on a marching bass drum.
“The fans had my back from the first moment I stepped on the pitch in Halifax and it’s been amazing throughout the season,” said Schaale, who signed autographs for an extended period after the game. “I’m really thankful.”
The Wanderers nearly lost the shutout in the 61st minute after keeper Christian Oxner took down Cavalry’s Oliver Minatel on a challenge inside the box. But the Halifax native came through with a spectacular diving save on Dominique Malonga’s penalty kick to highlight the perfect defensive day.
“I probably should’ve pulled out of the tackle but I didn’t and that kind of stuff happens,” Oxner said. “I knew it was Peter’s last game for us and it was his final send-off. He’s my roommate on the road so if I let that one in, I don’t think he would’ve let me live it down so I had to save that one for him.”
The penalty shot was one of very few quality scoring chances given up by the Wanderers, who did well to press up on the Cavalry defensively. But the visitors’ defence was equal to the task, keeping Halifax’s runs to the outside and smothering the Wanderers on most of their shot attempts.
“I thought we were good,” said Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “I thought we played good football, definitely in the second half. We got our possession higher up in the pitch so I think it was a good response because as you’ve seen there, this team’s got a lot of character.
“We always seem to be facing teams that have a week to prepare for us. We had one day. We travelled so when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, a 0-0 draw is ... a valuable point on the road. We’ve come here now and gotten seven points out of a possible nine.”
It’s also worth mentioning how there is no shame in playing to a draw against a team like Cavalry. They won the Canadian Premier League Spring Competition with an 8-2-0 record and lead the Fall session at 3-0-2.
“Of course whenever we play at home we like to go out and win the games,” Oxner said. “But when you play against one of the top teams in the league who are taking on MLS sides right now and you get a point off them when they’re top of the table, it’s not bad. So obviously three points, we would’ve been happier with that, but I think we’ll take this result today.”
Cavalry is the lone CPL team still alive in the Canadian Championship, which also includes the Ottawa Fury of the USL and Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact of MLS. Cavalry is in the middle of a two-game aggregate semifinal against the Impact, which they trail 2-1 heading back to Calgary for Game 2.
“Four days is probably a lifetime for us in the grand scheme of things so the boys now will shower, we’ll eat, we’ll do the ice baths, we’ll hydrate them up and do a pool session,” Wheeldon said. “What we’ve found in this league and with the Cup run is you can be a victim of your own success.
“You have to be very good at recovery, very good at hydration, very good at sports science and very good at video analysis. We don’t get as much time as we’d like on the training pitch but that’s, again, being a victim of our success. Our guys adapt and overcome what we have to work with and we’ll be ready for Wednesday.”
The Wanderers’ next game is on Aug. 28 on the road against Valour FC. Their Aug. 21 home game against Forge FC was postponed and will be rescheduled soon.
The Wanderers are undefeated in their past two games (1-0-1) and have improved to 2-5-1 in the Fall Competition. But they will, of course, need to rearrange their lineup to make up for the loss of Schaale, who will start his fourth season with the Capers in the coming weeks.
“We’ve dealt with that this year with some of our big-name players,” Oxner said. “Luis (Perea) was hurt at the start of the year and we’ve had (Tomasz) Skublak step up. I think we have the capability on our roster for people who are injured. We have people that can come in and they know they have to do the job. We have big shoes to fill in Peter but I have no doubt that they can do it.”