2021 CPL regular season — Match #60 HFX Wanderers FC vs. Forge FC September 3, 2021 at 5 pm ET/6 pm AT Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Tickets available here


The Canadian Premier League returns to Nova Scotia for some Friday night football this week, as defending champions Forge FC head out east for a clash with their fellow 2020 CPL Final combatants HFX Wanderers FC.

Forge enter this game on a four-match unbeaten run (six if you include their Concacaf League adventure in El Salvador), having won three of their last four games in the CPL. That one draw, of course, was at home against this same HFX Wanderers team, where the Hammers required an injury-time equalizer from Kwame Awuah to steal a point at the last moment. Nonetheless, they enter Friday after two resounding wins last week, having beaten Atlético Ottawa 4-0 on Wednesday before downing York United 3-1 on Saturday.

For Bobby Smyrniotis' team, things are certainly looking up; at the exact midway point of their CPL season, they have 25 points, which is currently good enough for third in the table -- with a game in hand on both Cavalry FC and Pacific FC, who sit tied at the top with 28 points. A win on Friday for Forge, who have an excellent +9 goal differential, could allow them to leapfrog the other two sides into first place.

"We're a very resilient group," Smyrniotis said on Thursday about his team's first half of the season. "We had to overcome quite a few things, I think at one point in Winnipeg we were down nine players, and we had to come up with the resolve to do things a little bit differently, shift players in new positions, in different places."

The Wanderers, meanwhile, will return home after four straight games played on the road in Ontario. They've managed to bank a point in each of their three previous games, earning a draw against Forge, York United, and Atlético Ottawa in the past couple weeks. Now, though, they'll be hoping to turn those results into wins at home so they can begin climbing up the table to mount a playoff push. HFX sit seventh in the league standings with 14 points, eight points behind fourth place with one game in hand. Stephen Hart's men have improved over the course of their road trip, but this homecoming would be a very good time for their attack to come alive as they enter the second half of the season.

"We were disappointed, we thought we should've come away with at least seven points from those three games, but it was not to be," Hart said of the recent road trip. "We have nobody else to blame but ourselves and we just have to look at the positive side of it, we didn't lose any games. We're trying to build on that and keep a positive outlook."

They could definitely begin to build on that on Friday night with a win over the champions.

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!


  • Forge playing their best football yet in 2021: Forge were slightly apprehensive heading into last week, staring down the prospect of playing three matches in six games. However, they came out of the stretch unscathed -- better than that, in fact -- having won two and drawn one in the grueling stretch. Their last two results, emphatic wins over Ottawa and York, brought their attack to life perhaps more than ever in 2021. Former league MVP Tristan Borges has been in his best form of the year, with a goal and an assist against York. Young striker Woobens Pacius has been a revelation, scoring three goals in two games (his first two starts for Forge). After outbursts in their last two games, Forge scored the joint-most goals in the CPL in the month of August with 10. As they continue getting healthier, they seem to have set themselves up well for a very strong second-half run beginning in September. "We've played some very good moments of football as we've come out of the Winnipeg bubble the last few games, and we're starting to hit stride a little bit more. It's just getting into a routine of things... Last week, I thought it was very good for the team, but we had a few days off and here we go again."​
  • Support needed for golden boot leader Morelli: So far in 2021, Brazilian attacker Joao Morelli has been putting together an incredible season for the Wanderers. He has seven goals, making him the CPL's current scoring leader, with two of them coming last Sunday in Ottawa (including one exceptional finish). What Morelli has been doing so far this year has been tremendous, although it does have to be said: HFX could really use some scoring from the rest of the squad. Morelli accounts for more than half of their 13 goals this year, with only one other player (Sam Salter, with two) scoring more than one goal. Last year's golden boot winner, Akeem Garcia, has just one so far (and from a penalty kick, at that), and a few more players could use a spark. It's not for lack of chances, of course; the Wanderers are underperforming their expected goals (19.21) more than any other club in the CPL right now, so perhaps a few more bounces need to go their way and their attack might begin lighting it up. Currently, Garcia and Salter are both dealing with injuries, but the Wanderers will need scoring help from somewhere -- perhaps in the form of recent squad addition Mamadi Camara?​
  • Home sweet home for Wanderers? In their history, HFX have lost just three CPL games at Wanderers Grounds, with a 7-3-7 all-time league record at home so far. After playing four straight away games against Ontario teams, Stephen Hart's men will be happy to get back to Nova Scotia. One of those few home defeats did come recently, a 3-2 result against York United on August 7, but with eight of their 14 remaining CPL matches coming at home, they certainly want to maximize their opportunities to collect points in front of the faithful Halifax support. "It will sound cliché-ish, but in this game, they always say win your home games, and try to steal points on the road. Really and truly, that's what we need to do. Hopefully it's what we can come together and get done."​


Forge FC wins: 2 || HFX Wanderers wins: 1 || Draws: 5

Previous match:

August 22, 2021 — Forge FC 1-1 HFX Wanderers


"Everyone wants to be fluid in the way they play. For me, the formation is the structure and picture at the beginning of the match, what zones we occupy and how we do things... I think it's important to differentiate things." — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis

"We all recognize that our main weakness has been holding on to leads in the late part of games, and we need to do better at that. We're well aware of it." — HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart

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