Final Score: HFX Wanderers 2-1 FC Edmonton Goalscorers: João Morelli (7', 55') Fraser Aird (64') Game of the 2021 season: 16 CPL match: 151

Match in a minute or less

With their only three natural centre-backs and a series of other players unavailable on the day, HFX Wanderers found a way to hold off a late push from FC Edmonton in a 2-1 win — their first of the season — on Saturday afternoon at IG Field. João Morelli scored both Wanderers goals in this one with a pair of confident finishes after a frustrating start to the year. Mesut Mert asked many players to do a defensive job and despite an Eddies onslaught to close, Halifax showed great defensive character in claiming all three points.

Three Observations

Doner's directness and pace potent on right flank João Morelli will steal most of the headlines having picked up the brace but Morey Doner was immense at both ends of the pitch for Halifax on Saturday. Covering what seemed to be the entire right side from goal line to goal line, his pace gave the backline a consistent outlet by which they could simply play the ball into space and let the right back run onto it. The energy to get pushed up the pitch and give Halifax width also allowed for Alex Marshall to tuck inside from his right midfield role and give his side another creative outlet in the middle of the park (see his pass for Morelli's second as an example). While his marauding run and calculated cutback cross for the opening goal was the strongest example of his performance, it was far from his only contribution — creating three total chances and completing 89.5% of his attempted passes. As a newcomer to this Wanderers team for 2022 — joining from York United — his transition into the team has been seamless in the eyes of assistant coach Mesut Mert: "He's one that's come in for us this year and really gave us another dimension of attack on the right side and being really aggressive," Mert told the media after the win. Eddies live and die by traditional forward play Among the makeshift Halifax back four, not a player stood taller than 5'10 — the opportunity for one of Tobias Warschewski or Easton Ongaro to bully their way through to the Wanderers goal seemed obvious. In the end, HFX must have also been privy to this assumption as well as Warschewski, who earned the start, created very little despite much of the Edmonton attack going straight into the target man. Credit to the Eddies for adjusting slightly in the second half as Warschewski recognized the space Fraser Aird had ran into on the goal and the German No. 9 bounced it back for Aird who finished from the top of the box. Finishing inside the area continues to be a problem for Koch's group as three of their four goals in 2021 have come from outside the box. Thanks to a strong defensive structure and good overall organization, Edmonton has been in every one of the four matches they've played so far from start to finish. In Ongaro or Warschewski, this team needs to find that 'fox in the box' finisher who can be relied on for end product while also earning the respect of the opposition that will open up wide areas for the likes of Jeannot Esua to thrive in. Wanderers flex versatility in win Depth at centre-back remains a question mark moving forward for Halifax but with Eriks Santos and Peter Schaale unavailable through injury and Jems Geffrard on international duty with Haiti at the Gold Cup, the Wanderers managed to find solutions internally for the time being to do a job in the heart of their defense. Kareem Sow and Mateo Restrepo played in front of Christian Oxner with Cory Bent pushing back the pitch to slot in at left back, arguably only Morey Doner suited up in a role natural for himself aomng the back four (although the case could be made for getting him in a more advanced role once the squad is healthy.) While Mert suggests this group was compiled of players with positional flexibility by design, it was their desire to get the job done that willed them over the line on Saturday: "Ultimately, they're very competitive and in order for us to get that first win, those boys would've done anything." Player of the Match João Morelli, HFX Wanderers An honourable mention goes out to Doner whose energy on the right flank was immense but Morelli is the logical choice having scored the Wanderers first two goals of 2021. When the HFX XI was announced pre match, questions arose over their make shift back four but Morelli's killer instinct in the final third decided the match at the other end for his club. What’s next? Halifax have just two days rest before their next match when they take on Pacific FC Tuesday, July 13 (8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT), while the Eddies look to make it two straight victories against the reigning champs as they battle Forge FC on Wednesday, July 14 (10:00 pm ET/9:00 pm CT). Watch all games live on OneSoccer.

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