2020 CPL regular season (The Island Games) — Match #29 HFX Wanderers FC vs. Forge FC September 9, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. AT
UPEI Artificial Turf Field in Charlottetown, PEI Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
HFX Wanderers FC are the talk of the Canadian Premier League at the moment.
After being at the very bottom of the 2019 season standings, HFX finished in second place during the opening group stage of The Island Games, and they enter the second round with momentum after recording back-to-back clean sheet victories.
The Wanderers are coming off a 2-0 win over Atlético Ottawa, a result that allowed them to leapfrog Forge FC in the standings, as the Hamilton-based club had to settle for third place. HFX also battled Forge to a 1-1 draw in the first round, and showed that they can hang with the reigning league champions. Forge should expect another stiff test when they face HFX in the second-round opener on Wednesday.
Forge enters this contest after playing Valour FC to a 2-2 draw on the weekend, but don’t read too much into that result. They already clinched a second-round berth and coach Bobby Smyrniotis used the occasion to rotate his squad.
The OX: After dealing with an injury and watching from the sidelines at the start of The Island Games, goalkeeper Christian Oxner has overtaken Jason Beaulieu as HFX’s clear No. 1. Oxner has two clean sheets and ranks fourth amongst all CPL goalkeepers in saves with 14, five of which came in a standout performance against Ottawa. Oxner’s solid play between the posts is one reason why HFX is tied for the best defensive record at The Island Games, with just seven goals conceded thus far.
Bekker the goal-scorer: Kyle Bekker gets a lot of praise for his superb play in midfield and playmaking ability. But somewhat overlooked are his goal-scoring skills. The Forge captain leads his team in scoring at The Island Games with three goals, including netting a late and dramatic winner against Pacific FC. HFX can’t afford to overlook Bekker when he gets into the final third, and they would do well to track his movements and close him down quickly. Pacific didn’t properly track him as he made a late run into the box, and it cost them valuable points.
Morelli back for HFX: Some good news for the Wanderers is that João Morelli is available for selection on Wednesday after he served a two-game suspension. The Brazilian forward bagged three goals in four games for HFX before being sent off against York9 FC. HFX hardly missed a beat without Morelli – they won their next two games by a combined score of 4-0 – and Akeem Garcia leads the league in scoring with four goals. But coach Stephen Hart will be glad to have his talented attacker back in the line-up against the reigning CPL champions.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“I’m a little surprised at how quick things came together in some instances, because we didn’t have a lot of time together really. But all credit to the players. They’re a tremendous bunch off the field, but on the field they’re showing the sort of discipline, and balance from those who have come off the bench, to keep us in games or even help us get back into games late.” – HFX coach Stephen Hart, after the Ottawa game.
“One thing we’ve learned quickly here is fatigue and injuries are a major factor on how games go and how things happen. I think games may start off cagey, but as they go on fatigue starts kicking in.” – Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis, after the Valour game.
HFX Wanderers gave the Canadian Premier League kingpins something to think about in this tight contest, and the East Coast side was left reeling following a controversial refereeing decision in their second consecutive match at The Island Games.
Referee: David Barrie ARs: Sean Hornsby & Travis Lefebvre 4th Official: Carly Shaw-MacLaren