2021 CPL regular season (The Kickoff) — Match #20 HFX Wanderers vs. Pacific FC July 13, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca

Both sides of this coastal clash come into Tuesday evening's match fresh off a weekend win as HFX Wanderers take on Pacific FC for the second time at The Kickoff.

Halifax headed into their game against FC Edmonton on Saturday winless and without a goal through their first three matches but thanks to a brace from João Morelli they solved both issues in style, topping the Eddies 2-1. Pacific's three points came a little more comfortably as Marco Bustos also picked up a pair of goals on Saturday, with Matteo Polisi adding his first professional goal in a 3-0 Tridents win over York United.

Although the Wanderers had shown signs of progression after a slow start to the season, the results were needed to keep the mindset positive within the group, a mentality they hope to carry over to the Pacific contest according to assistant coach Mesut Mert: "That first win was a big boost morally for everybody really," Mert told the media on Monday. "And now it's just about continuing that momentum into the next game."

Perhaps the most impressive facet of the HFX win over the Eddies was their versatility — particularly the manner in which their back four was able to keep Edmonton largely quiet with three natural centre backs absent in Eriks Santos, Peter Schaale and Jems Geffrard. With Geffrard on international duty with Haiti at the Gold Cup and Santos and Schaale "day to day" according to Mert, the makeshift Wanderers defensive unit could be relied on to see things out once again on Tuesday. "That back four is getting the job done and that's all we can ask of them."

It was Pacific who won in convincing fashion when these two sides faced on the opening day of the season as Bustos and Ollie Bassett found the net in a 2-0 victory. Following a lull in form after that, the Tridents have strung together two straight clean sheets as they followed up a 1-0 result over Atlético Ottawa with a dominant 3-0 effort against York.

With key players in and out of the lineup as injuries pile up amid the congested schedule, Pacific has leaned on some "unsung heroes" to steer the ship in their absence, a necessity of this bubble setting according to head coach Pa-Modou Kah: "You have to reward them because when players see that, it acts as motivation."

"They know that we need every single one of them, every single player because it's a long draining season coming out of a pandemic."

With both teams beyond the halfway mark of their stay in Manitoba, it should be a hotly contested affair as they look to get back to their respective home markets with as many points accumulated as possible.

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  • Can Morelli be a difference maker again? While Morelli was the hero last time out for the Wanderers, the Brazilian attacker had to settle for a spot on the bench when they played Pacific back on June 26. Coming on at the break with his side already down two goals at that stage made for tough conditions for an auxiliary player like him to thrive in. Last year's golden boot winner Akeem Garcia has struggled to refind his form so far in 2021 with his 22 touches (lowest amongst any HFX starter) on Saturday indicative of his lack of involvement as opposing defenders are now all too familiar with his Island Games displays. With winger Stefan Karajovanovic still finding his feet as a professional and attackers like Cory Bent asked to lend a hand in a more defensive role than he's accustomed to at left back, Halifax will need somebody to carry the torch as Garcia adjusts to having less time and space. Given his eye for a pass and the ability to finish he demonstrated against the Eddies, Morelli feels a sure starter and as natural a candidate as any to be a difference maker in the final third against Pacific.​
  • Chung vs. Bent and Co.: Mesut Mert had a lot of praise for Cory Bent in his cameo appearance at left back on Saturday as the natural winger played "really well" in place of first choice for that spot Mateo Restrepo, who as a result of the void at centre back was forced to slide to the middle against the Eddies. However, with due respect to the right side of Edmonton, perhaps no player in the league poses a bigger problem on that side than Pacific's Kadin Chung right now. Chung gives the Tridents a massive boost in both halves with his complete skillset as a modern full back. On Sunday against York, no Pacific player had more interceptions (4) or was involved in more duels (12) than the 22-year-old, while on the ball he completed 87% of his passes and was a constant threat going forward with Marco Bustos often tucking inside in front of him. Bustos' brilliance so far this season has been well documented, but the man supporting him from behind has the potential to cause Halifax plenty of headaches, his "unassuming" nature a part of what makes him so dangerous in the eyes of his coach: "He's playing every single game, he's been consistent. He just flies under the radar because he's not somebody that promotes himself."​
  • Tuesday night fight: Both sides drew a Saturday fixture this past weekend which has meant at least one extra day of rest so far at The Kickoff with all midweek matches taking place Wednesday or Thursday to date, until now. This game serves as the only Tuesday-nighter on the schedule until teams return back to their home markets later this month and with very little time for players carrying knocks to get fit, the depth of these two groups could once again be tested. Both Halifax and Pacific have dealt with injuries and rotated regularly in the opening two and a half weeks in Winnipeg — whichever coach can get the most out of their supporting cast could be the one earning the three points on Tuesday.​


HFX Wanderers wins: 1 || Pacific FC wins: 4 || Draws: 3

Previous match:

June 26, 2021 – HFX Wanderers 0-2 Pacific FC


"I think for us it's just going out there and managing the game in the sense that we can control the tempo." — HFX Wanderers assistant coach, Mesut Mert

"I think they played well against Edmonton to be fair to them and got their first points of the year which comes through hard work and we're going to expect a hard game obviously but we got to just focus on ourselves." — Pacific FC head coach, Pa-Modou Kah

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