2021 CPL regular season — Match #102 Forge FC vs. HFX Wanderers FC October 30, 2021 at 1 pm ET Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Buy tickets HERE

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The Canadian Premier League's Halloween weekend triple-header kicks off this Saturday in Hamilton, as HFX Wanderers pay a visit to Tim Hortons Field to take on Forge FC in yet another rematch of the 2020 CPL Final. The Wanderers, currently clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot in the league by a one-point margin over York United, will probably consider Saturday's game must-win, especially with both York and Valour FC, the two other sides still in the hunt for the top four, also playing away from home that afternoon. The urgency is even greater for HFX at the moment coming out of their midweek fixture on Tuesday, where they were dismantled in Winnipeg en route to a 3-0 loss to Valour. Stephen Hart's side have just one game on the schedule after this one -- a home clash with Atlético Ottawa -- so the margin for error is exceptionally thin as they hold desperately to their hopes of joining the top three sides in the playoffs. "They know they have to turn things around, come up with two big performances, which starts with the one tomorrow," Hart said on Friday. One of those top three is, of course, the defending champions Forge. They're third in the table as it stands with 41 points, meaning they're three back of second-place Cavalry FC and four behind first-place Pacific. However, they actually have a better shot at breaking into the top two than it seems: with just 23 out of 28 matches played, Forge have two games in hand on Cavalry, and three on the Tridents. So, they'll likely control their own fate over what's sure to be a whirlwind couple weeks in November. Saturday will be the fifth and (potentially) final meeting between the Hamilton and Halifax sides in 2021, and there's been little to separate them. They've played three times at the Wanderers Grounds, both teams winning once with a draw in the third contest. In their only game at Tim Hortons Field so far this year, Forge's Kwame Awuah scored with a lobbed cross in the 96th minute to equalize for the hosts and split the points. Last weekend, these teams played out a 0-0 stalemate in Halifax. Certainly, both sides will be hoping to open things up a little more this time around as they look for three more points to close out October.

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  • Where will the goals come from for HFX? The Wanderers have not scored a goal in their last three games. In their last five, they've scored just one. Despite being in the driver's seat for the fourth playoff spot, HFX have actually scored the fewest goals in the CPL this season with just 26 in 26 games. The recent absence of leading scorer (and CPL Golden Boot leader) Joao Morelli has certainly not helped; he has missed four consecutive games now, and the only goal the team has scored in that stretch was an own goal from a set-piece against Pacific. Coach Stephen Hart has been crying out all season for Morelli to have some help in the goalscoring department; in these final two games of the season, whether Morelli is there or not (his status remains questionable), it's absolutely crucial that somebody steps up. "It's a composure thing," Hart said. "We just seem to lack that precision, that composure in the box. It is something we've been trying to address for the longest while, we just have to keep plugging away and hope that on the day we can find situations where we not only score the goals but even with the half-chances force saves and see what happens after that."
  • Forge expanding tactical toolbox: In Wednesday's match against CF Montreal, Forge deployed a full-on high press system, which isn't something they've often done in three years of CPL play. That's certainly not something they're likely to use often -- and probably not against HFX, who can be very direct and play through a press when necessary -- but it goes to show just how complex and versatile this Forge side is. "What's important is you have to see what the opponent is, what their trends are," Bobby Smyrniotis said on Friday. "At least for us, we have DNA and we have principles to the way we play but there's always going to be adjustments based on the teams we play, where they could be dangerous, where we think we could block them and create opportunities for us... We've shown that when it comes to games like that, knockout games, things like that, we're open to changing it up a little bit, but also sticking to our principles and making sure we're good on the ball."
  • How quickly can Forge regroup after emotional CanChamp? Forge have no time to feel sorry for themselves after Wednesday night's loss on penalties, with CPL matches (plus Tuesday's Concacaf League) coming thick and fast now. However, there's perhaps a sense that Forge will come into Saturday's game even hungrier, having been knocked out of one competition but still alive in two others. Their focus will have narrowed slightly, and they'll be desperate to bounce back as quickly as possible. "That chapter is done, you move on immediately. It doesn't matter what you're doing, how many games you've won in a row, what you've lost and so on, it's pointless because you've got the next one and it's an important one. We have an opponent coming in here who I think really needs three points based on their midweek result and things getting a little bit interesting in that part for that fourth playoff spot; they're coming in with some level of pressure to get a result, and for us it's important because we want to climb the table. It doesn't matter at this point how many points you finish with, there's no trophy for it."


HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || Forge FC wins: 3 || Draws: 6

Previous match:

October 23, 2021 — HFX Wanderers FC 0-0 Forge FC


"We have players on the pitch that you interchange and it doesn't change a lot of the way in which you have to play. You can pull one guy in, put the other other guy up into that position and keep things steady. They may bring a little bit of a different dynamic in how they do it, because that's important, but it doesn't change the basis of play." – Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis

"I do know (Forge) don't want to have to leave Hamilton, they want to finish first. They're going to do what they have to do." — HFX Wanderers FC coach Stephen Hart

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