2021 CPL regular season — Match #74 (ComeOn! Match of the Week) HFX Wanderers FC vs. FC Edmonton September 25, 2021 at 2 pm ET/3 pm AT Wanderers Grounds, Halifax, Nova Scotia Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Tickets available HERE
After some midweek Canadian Championship drama, the Canadian Premier League is back in full force this weekend -- starting with a ComeOn! Match of the Week showdown out east between HFX Wanderers and FC Edmonton at the Wanderers Grounds on Saturday afternoon.
As the 2021 season enters its homestretch, each game has extra importance for clubs as they look to bank as many points as possible and try to break their way into the playoff picture.
The Wanderers, in Halifax again after last Saturday's 0-0 draw away to York United, have turned their attention to league play after a heartbreaking Canadian Championship defeat at home on Wednesday night to CF Montréal, when they held the MLS side to a 1-1 scoreline until the 89th minute -- at which point Ballou Tabla scored a late brace to steal victory for the visitors and avoid a penalty shootout. Still, the gutsy performance from the Wanderers left them with plenty of positives, as they prepare for a late-season playoff push.
As it stands, Stephen Hart's side are sixth in the CPL table after 18 games, with a 5-7-6 record and 22 points. They're one point back of fifth-place Valour FC, and four behind York United for fourth place (and the final playoff spot). HFX are looking to capitalize on their home fixtures, with five of them remaining; in four league games at home so far, they're 2-1-1, and historically the Wanderers Grounds has been a difficult place for opposing teams to play, and they'd like to keep it that way down the stretch.
Hart told CanPL.ca on Friday that, with games coming thick and fast for his side right now, they're still dealing with a few injury issues -- Morey Doner trained on Friday but still likely won't return for a couple of weeks -- but they're starting to heal up a little; Akeem Garcia saw action in Wednesday's game off the bench, which is a very positive sign.
Edmonton, meanwhile -- making a trip to a CPL ground east of Winnipeg for the first time since 2019 -- are hoping to build on some recent positive performances. They're seventh in the table with 18 points, but they drew 1-1 with first-place Pacific FC last time out, and before that they beat Valour 3-0 away from home. Head coach Alan Koch has been pleased with the fight his team has shown recently, finally seeing them turn strong efforts into on-paper results.
Koch also said on Friday that he's impressed with this Wanderers side, explaining that they've got plenty of quality, but he feels the Eddies can match up well with them.
"(HFX) were a couple minutes away from taking an MLS team to penalty kicks, so I think it shows the quality of the group and the capacity they have to play," Koch said. "We know it's gonna be a tough challenge coming here, going anywhere on the road in this league is never going to be easy... There are some quality players that can hurt you in individual situations, and they're also very good in transition. So we're going to have to nullify their strengths and we want to impose ourselves, a bit part of our progression is starting to impose ourselves on opponents more."
Both sides took one of the two meetings between these teams back in the Winnipeg bubble, and they haven't played each other since. So, the two sides will be looking for an extra gear in this weekend's ComeOn! Match of the Week.
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! To learn more about ComeOn!, click here.
3 THINGS TO WATCH:
- Edmonton look to pick up momentum: The Eddies' last two outings have been quite positive, with a 3-0 win against Valour FC followed by a 1-1 draw with league leaders Pacific FC. It seems that, at last, Alan Koch is starting to see his team rewarded for good performances after some results slipped away despite strong efforts previously. With 10 games to go, Edmonton will be looking to rack up as many positive moments as possible from what's been a challenging season. Koch explained that part of that progress has come from establishing some consistency in his side: "It's one at a time but we do see the progression of the team, we see the progression of the club, and we feel like we're heading in the right direction... I think in the last two games in particular we played a lot of the same players, and I thnk one of the positive byproducts when you play the same players is relationships evolve."
- Can Wanderers bounce back after emotional CanChamp game? Wednesday night's heartbreaking loss to CF Montréal in the Canadian Championship was a result that will sting for a while in Halifax, but they have no time to dwell on that. The Wanderers remain very much alive in the playoff race, and a home date against a team below them in the standings is an absolutely crucial game for them with 10 to go. Coach Stephen Hart explained that, really, they have no choice but to pick themselves up a quickly as possible: "The Cup game was disappointing, but at the end of the day Montreal were deserving winners and we have to get on with it. For me right now what's more important to us is to keep fighting, keep trying to get that playoff spot."
- Baskett the hot hand in goal for HFX: After watching the majority of this season from the bench, 19-year-old Halifax native Kieran Baskett has now been the Wanderers' starting goalkeeper in three consecutive games, including that big Canadian Championship clash. Stephen Hart confirmed on Friday that starting Baskett has been a choice rather than a necessity due to injury, with the young 'keeper outperforming Christian Oxner at the moment. "It's a tough position, and once you sort of get in there and you do well, most coaches don't flip flop," Hart explained. I think Christian understands that, he was in that exact position when (Jan-Michael Williams) was the number one and then Christian took over. Kieran's done well, and there's no reason to have much change." So, expect Baskett to get the nod again on Saturday in all likelihood.
HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || FC Edmonton wins: 3 || Draws: 2
July 21, 2021 — FC Edmonton 1-0 HFX Wanderers
“We have to make the best of our home games because we have the support, we have the comfort of our surroundings, and we have to make the best of it.” — Stephen Hart, HFX Wanderers head coach
“We' want to continue to progress, we want to continue to build. These are the games we're excited to play, and we're looking forward to the challenge.” — Alan Koch, FC Edmonton head coach