CPL regular season -- Match #78 HFX Wanderers FC vs. Atlético Ottawa September 29, 2021 at 5:30 pm ET/6:30 pm Wanderers Grounds, Halifax, Nova Scotia Watch Live: OneSoccer & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here



The CPL is back out east this Wednesday to kick off a midweek tripleheader, as Atlético Ottawa head to Nova Scotia for the second time this season to take on HFX Wanderers FC.

Fortunately for the visitors, they're entering with a bit of good form, having picked up a resounding 3-1 win at home on Saturday over Cavalry FC to end an eight-game winless run. Inspired by Drew Beckie's emotional second-minute goal in his return to the lineup, Ottawa went on to score twice more thanks to Malcolm Shaw and Brian Wright to see off the second-place team in the CPL. That result followed shortly after another positive effort, when Atleti managed to scrape a hard-earned point away from home against league leaders Pacific FC the weekend before.

Still, despite the recent showings, Ottawa remain at the bottom of the league table. Their 4-5-11 record gives them 17 points, which is just one back of seventh-place FC Edmonton (but 12 behind York United in the final playoff spot).

"Sometimes in professional sports it's not just, especially for the players, because you can play well and not get the goal," Ottawa coach Mista said on Tuesday. "But maybe the last two games we have a reward because we've done a lot of work before... Sometimes sport is not just, but the justice is to continue working because to us in the process, at the end you have the result and have good news, and this is exactly what we did. We will continue working, trusting the process, trusting in our performance and hoping that the result will come more than the last week."

Hosting this match, the Wanderers are hoping to keep an eight-game unbeaten streak alive. They beat FC Edmonton 1-0 at home on Saturday, with three wins and five draws in their last eight. Stephen Hart's side find themselves right in the thick of a heated playoff race, as they fight with a handful of other clubs to get into the top four. As it stands, HFX sit in fifth place, with a 6-7-6 record and 25 points, but they're four behind York United with nine games left to play. They're still dealing with some injuries -- Morey Doner is close to coming back but still might not quite be read, and Jake Ruby remains unavailable -- but the defenders that are able to play have been especially strong recently, with clean sheets in the last two consecutive league games.

So, the Wanderers desperately need all three points this week against Ottawa if they're to set themselves up for a strong run down the homestretch of this season.

Of course, this will be the fifth time Ottawa and HFX have met in 2021. The Wanderers have taken three of their meetings -- including the most recent, a 2-1 triumph at TD Place thanks to Joao Morelli's 89th-minute goal. Atleti have one win in this matchup, with their 2-1 result in their home opener.


All CPL matches can be streamed live on OneSoccer, as well as on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980. Make your match picks prior to kickoff at canpl.ca/predictor for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!


3 THINGS TO WATCH:

  • Stay tuned 'til the end: All but one of the meetings between HFX and Atlético Ottawa this season have featured a result-changing goal in the final 15 minutes of the 90. Both teams have stolen victory from what looked destined to be a draw, thanks to Joao Morelli and Brian Wright's very late heroics, and Ottawa managed to scrape a point in one of their games after winning a penalty in the 75th minute to equalize. Neither team can afford to slow down in the late stages or let off the gas, because their opponent will be able to punish in a moment of weakness. "Every game against Ottawa they have made us suffer to get a point or even three points," HFX coach Stephen Hart said Tuesday. "And they're a very good team, there's no doubt about that. We know it's not going to be any different tomorrow."​
  • HFX seek secondary scoring: Six out of the seven goals HFX have scored against Ottawa this season have come off the boot of Joao Morelli -- who accounts for more than half of the markers the Wanderers have scored in the 2021 CPL campaign, with 12 of 21. Certainly, the Brazilian forward is having a tremendous season out east, leading the Golden Boot race by some margin. Still, it's a concern for the Wanderers that it seems like nobody else can consistently find the net, including 2020's scoring title winner Akeem Garcia (who has just one goal this year). Stephen Hart has been pleading for some secondary scoring in recent weeks; attacking players like Alex Marshall, Stefan Karajovanovic and Sam Salter have put in strong performances recently, but they need to start burying their chances to help the Wanderers in their playoff push. Hart explained he really wants to see those aforementioned players start finishing their chances: "They have contributed in the assist department but I want more from them. I want them to be more composed in and around the box, I want them to be more clinical in their final decisions or taking their chances, and they have the capability. It's within them. It just seems when they get close to the penalty area or in the penalty area they take a little bit too long. I'll keep the pressure on them to be a little more clinical."​
  • Ottawa defence improving: Atleti have been very leaky at the back at times this season, but their last couple of performances have shown signs that perhaps things are getting better. The club has been decimated with injuries to the defence, meaning they haven't really been able to solidify any partnerships. Nyal Higgins and Matthew Arnone played together at centre-back against Cavalry and they looked good in a match where they had to do a lot of defending -- Arnone making 13 clearances to keep Cavalry to just one goal. Arnone, paired with Milovan Kapor against Pacific, has played some tough minutes for Ottawa in a side that has faced a lot of pressure even in their stronger performances, and it looks like he's starting to become more and more comfortable with the team after joining them midseason. Head coach Mista stressed on Tuesday that defending is the number one thing he wants to continue improving (and please -- no more penalties!). "The goalkeeper and the defenders are the biggest stone for the team, they can support everything," Mista said. "I'm so happy, especially for the defence, because we have a lot of travel this season, the injuries, the red cards, another penalty last game again, but this is the competition, we need to learn about that. I think everything is different when you have a good result."​


ALL-TIME SERIES

Atlético Ottawa wins: 1 || HFX Wanderers wins: 4 || Draws: 1


Previous match:

September 11, 2021 — Atlético Ottawa 1-2 HFX Wanderers FC

KEY QUOTES

"We need to defend exactly the same like the last two games... We have to lose the bad feeling we have from the last game we played here in Halifax, I think it's the worst game we did, not for the result but for the feeling we had when we finished the game, and we need to change this completely." -- Atlético Ottawa coach Mista

"(Ottawa) have found their balance, and they're healthy again. That's important because you have some players that were off from injury, so they're rested, eager to prove themselves, and that's an important part of the push for the end of the season." -- HFX Wanderers coach Stephen Hart

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