Well, here we are. Every CPL team has played six times at The Island Games, and they're only marginally more separated in the standings than they were at the beginning of it all. We're now faced with, really, a dream scenario for a fan: one final weekend in the first round, where seven of the eight teams in the league (all of which play once) could still qualify for the top four. We're a far cry from the locked-in top two of Forge FC and Cavalry FC that left other sides with little to play for down the stretch last season. The math isn't exactly simple — in fact, it could get extremely complicated when all is said and done — but no coach is going to tell you they're paying much attention to results outside their own this weekend (even if they definitely are). For them, the message will be clear: win your game (by a certain score, if necessary), and let the rest take care of itself. So, as we head into this winner-take-all weekend before the second group stage begins next week, here's one major objective for each CPL side desperate for a win on their seventh matchday. RELATED READING: Black Lives Matter - Helpful reading and video resources
FC Edmonton: Keep fighting

The Eddies are the only team officially eliminated so far, which means they won't be fighting for a top-four spot. Still, they can make life very difficult for Pacific FC on Sunday (the final match of the weekend). Jeff Paulus commended his side for showing some spirit on Tuesday against York9 FC, despite losing 1-0 to a set-piece goal. "That’s all you ask for at this point," he said after the game. "They’re not quitting, they’re not giving up, and I know they won’t quit the next game either." On Sunday, all he wants to see is more of the same: a full effort from both his veteran and young players, and a commitment to the project they've begun in Edmonton. A goal or two would certainly be nice, and nicking a win to throw a wrench into the standings would be good, too. It's primarily an exercise in mentality and character, though.
Valour FC: Finishing from the strikers

Valour has scored the second-fewest goals (six) at The Island Games so far, and yet, somehow, they've taken the most shots on target of any club. They've only taken the third-most shots inside the box, though, with several of their long-range efforts not really causing many problems. What Rob Gale's side needs most desperately is to see one of his forwards — Austin Ricci or Shaan Hundal — put the ball in the back of the net. Ricci has generally been pretty good at injecting energy into games and creating shots for himself, but he's still without a goal for Valour. Even when they scored four goals against 10-men Atlético Ottawa, none of them came from a striker. That seems to be the one piece Valour is missing.
Pacific FC: Unlock the defence and help out Bustos

Pacific's 1-0 loss to Atlético Ottawa on Wednesday night was frustrating, as they failed to score over 90 minutes before succumbing to a last-minute winner by the expansion side. They out-shot Ottawa 17-8 and had almost two-thirds of possession, but couldn't score; Pa-Modou Kah pinned it partly on an inability to break down Ottawa's low block and move the ball fast enough. MVP candidate Marco Bustos did have a fairly dominant evening in his part of the field, with four successful dribbles, seven touches in the box, and five shots. However, he needed a little help; he was never quite able to find Alejandro Díaz to lay it off for a better shot, nor did Zach Verhoven make the overlapping runs that usual right back Kadin Chung would make. The front three at Pacific has been rightly praised for its play at The Island Games, especially after a pair of excellent wins before Wednesday's loss. They'll need to return to that level on Sunday, since they'll desperately need to win (possibly by multiple goals) to stand any chance of advancing.
Atlético Ottawa: Put it away earlier

The expansion side are quite a confusing team. They began the tournament with three straight second-half collapses, blowing 2-0 leads twice and getting thumped 4-0 by Valour. Then, they followed things up with a stunning 90-minute effort to beat Cavalry FC. Their win against Pacific came late as well, as Mista's side were rewarded for holding firm in their well-organized low block. Against HFX Wanderers FC this weekend, though, Ottawa will be looking to do something they haven't quite done yet: win both halves, and put the game to bed. They'd certainly rather not have to desperately play with their season on the line in the final half-hour of the game. The objective will, surely, be to get on the board early against HFX, and then stay in front. This Ottawa side looks more confident and cohesive by the day, so it's not out of the question.
HFX Wanderers FC: Get the energy back

Stephen Hart admitted after the Wanderers' win over Valour that his side had looked more fatigued than he'd expected, and as a result they were pinned back by the Winnipeg club much more than they would've liked. They still emerged with the result, thanks to a few fortunate bounces and a well-taken Cory Bent goal, but they didn't quite feel like the better side. "I really wanted us to go out there and put the game on top of them, and force them to play quicker than they were comfortable," Hart said. "But I soon realized that a number of the starters just didn’t have the legs." That game's tempo was very different from what we've seen in other matches at The Island Games from HFX. They pressed Cavalry FC extremely hard, they ran over FC Edmonton, and they fought tooth-and-nail to get back into it against York9 FC. This weekend, Hart will be looking for that kind of energy to return. He wants his side to play on the front foot and push up the field, which they're capable of doing — but only if they've got the stamina. Hopefully these few days of rest before Sunday can allow the Wanderers to recharge and get back to their best selves.
York9 FC: Score from open play

It feels like an obvious one. The Nine Stripes have scored just two goals from open play in this tournament, and they have a league-worst 3.05 expected goals from situations without a dead ball. They've had the ball in the right areas — in fact, they've completed the third-most passes in the attacking third — but the final ball still hasn't materialized. Still, they haven't lost a game yet, and they're finally getting healthy. They certainly control their own fate this weekend against Cavalry. But, with players such as Dominick Zator defending against them, York9 cannot afford to rely on set-pieces. It's crucial that the attacking players, perhaps Ryan Telfer in particular, create more touches in the box for themselves, and take their opportunities to shoot. Telfer seemed to generate a little more for himself on Tuesday, playing as an inverted winger; might we see that again on Saturday?
Cavalry FC: Get the swagger back

Some of the shine has come off Cavalry FC in the past week, with losses to Atlético Ottawa and Pacific FC. They came into The Island Games as one of the favourites, having made several additions to their first-place squad from 2019. Right now, though, it's easy to forget the three straight wins they notched prior to their two losses. They've had a full week off after the Pacific game, which Tommy Wheeldon Jr. will certainly have been using to work out the kinks and get his side back to the dominant pressing machine they've been in the past. Cavalry often plays with the attitude that comes with being anointed the top team in the league, but they faltered a bit in the last week. They need to find that confidence and swagger again in order to come out and convincingly take down York9.
Forge FC: Stay healthy

The CPL champions have been one of the more consistent sides in PEI so far, although they did lose once to 905 Derby rivals York9. Nonetheless, they're in first place, with a pretty good chance of advancing to the top four no matter what happens this weekend. Of course, that won't be enough for them; Bobby Smyrniotis will definitely be drilling his side this week to come out strong against Valour and erase all doubt. They'll want to play their usual, well-rounded style and win convincingly. They've earned the right to have an eye on the future, though; they'll probably play their first match of the second round on Wednesday, which will be another quick turnaround for everyone involved. Forge, like every team, has had to deal with a few injuries in this short campaign, including what looked like a tough break for Chris Nanco in their last game. So, they'll be hoping to come out of Saturday unscathed, with as many healthy bodies as possible in order to make a deep run in the second round.

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