2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #11 Pacific FC vs. Halifax Wanderers April 23, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. PT/7:00 p.m. ET Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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A coastal clash awaits observers at Starlight Stadium on Saturday, as Pacific FC gets set to host the Halifax Wanderers in week three of CPL action. In the first meeting between the two sides on Vancouver Island since October 2nd, 2019, Pacific and Halifax will look to forget the geographical distance that separates the two sides, and instead focus on bridging that distance to combine for a solid game. And given that in their history, the record between the two teams has seen Pacific win four games, Halifax grab two of their own, leaving them to both draw the other four, a solid game is more than reasonable to expect from them, something they’ll both look to deliver upon. On the home side, the defending 2021 CPL champions, Pacific, will feel confident in their ability to grab a win here, as they cap off a three-game homestand to kick off their 2022 campaign. Undefeated to start the season, having picked up a 2-1 victory over Forge FC in week one before grabbing 3-2 win over Valour FC in week two, they have not only emerged as an early favourite given their standing atop the table, but also in how they’ve won those games, too. Seeing how they took care of business in a ruthless and efficient manner in their 2021 CPL Finals rematch against Forge, before going for more of an aggressive approach in their win against Valour, that just shows their versatility as a team, helping demonstrate that championship pedigree that exists in their ranks. In their guests, however, Halifax will be expected to offer a formidable counter to that. In their opening game, they came out and picked up a tidy 1-0 road victory over York United, before just falling short 1-0 to Atletico Ottawa in what was nearly another tidy road performance a week later. They did suffer an even bigger loss in that Ottawa game, to be fair, as 2021 CPL MVP and Golden Boot winner, João Morelli, left late on in that match with what was later found to be a season-ending torn ACL, but despite that, they’ve got a lot of faith in the rest of their squad to step up in his absence. Especially seeing how they’ve defended in their first two games, where despite being on the road in tough environments, they’ve allowed just one goal, that will certainly look to be a calling card as they figure out how to replace Morelli’s offensive impact at the other end. As a result, it’s expected to be a tightly contested matchup between the two, with Halifax’s defence looking to be a nice counter to Pacific’s attack. And given that in 2021, they each won one game, lost one game and then drew the third game in which they played against each other, that is just further proof of that. “I expect a good match,” Pacific’s head coach, James Merriman, noted. “We're preparing for a very good match. They're organized defensively, they're attacking well, they've been quite good in possession, so we expect a good match.” “They're a confident team, being at home,” Halifax’s head coach, Stephen Hart, added when talking about Pacific. “They're in a comfort zone, but I would like to see us not be afraid to take the initiative, to take some chances.” They might be oceans apart geographically, yes, but there is no gulf that exists between the two on the pitch, and they’ll look to prove why on Saturday.

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  • Home cooking meet road warriors: Although this matchup should be close on paper, and for good reason, one thing to watch out for? Each team’s respective schedules up to this point, because as fate has it, Pacific enters this game having exclusively played at home so far, while Halifax comes in having yet to play at home. So as a result, this means that this game will be one between a team that has really gotten used to their home cooking in recent weeks, and one who will have gotten used to the sort of fares that being on the road can offer up. Yet, despite that, the road warriors, Halifax, don’t seem fazed by that. Given that they’ve had two solid performances away from home so far, and do have that road win in their back pocket for their troubles, they’ve already proven to be a team that looks comfortable in these tough environments, and will just look to continue that in this game. “From the time the schedule came out, we knew that this was going to be the challenge, and we accepted that,” Hart said. “We gave ourselves a goal of (not just) trying to come away with as many wins as possible, but (also) getting points on the road. And in order for us to be a team that competes in the end, we've got to get points on the road.” But on the other side, Pacific will also look to prove that despite them enjoying the luxuries of being at home, they also want to push themselves well out of their comfort zone as soon as they get on the pitch, showing why they’ve been one of the best teams at home since the end of the bubble in 2021. It’s always easier said than done to be dominant at home, yet Pacific have found a way to strike that balance in recent games, and now they’ll just want to keep that up. “It's something that we speak about as a group,” Merriman said. “We want to make this place a very difficult place to come for teams to play us, a difficult atmosphere, and our fans help with that. We have a great fan base here, it's always growing and we want to continue to work for them, play for them and put on good performances here at home and make it a very, very difficult place for teams to come.”
  • Halifax looking for new faces to step up in attack: While Halifax will feel confident in their ability to replace Morelli, both internally and with any potential new arrival, it’s no secret that they’ll greatly miss the Brazilian attacker, especially in the short-term. Given that Halifax were actually last in goals for in 2021 with 28, half of which (14) were scored by Morelli, their offence was already a bit of a concern heading into this season, meaning that this injury has only further demonstrated their need for goals. And seeing that the next-best attacking output last year after Morelli was Sam Salter with just three, it’s going to take a big effort from within to change that. The good news, however? There are names who could be primed to step up in bigger attacking roles in the aftermath of this news. For example, Salter has shown to be a quietly growing young striker, while winger, Alex Marshall, has earned call-ups to the Jamaican National Team for a reason. Plus, it’s also worth remembering that Halifax does still have 2020 Golden Boot winner, Akeem Garcia, who despite tallying just two markers in 24 games last year, did score six in 10 in 2020, and seven in 24 in 2019. Along with the added creative emphasis that new signing, Aiden Daniels, has brought to their midfield, it shows that there are names for Hart to rely on, he’ll just need them to find a way to come together and step up in Morelli’s absence, something he’s certainly counting on them being able to do here. “Our players, they've taken the opportunity to step in and contribute,” Hart said. “And we can only deal with the situation that we have, and the players that we have available, and in my estimation, we've done well with that.”
  • Pacific hungry to score even more: It feels strange to say, but this Pacific team feels like they’re still finding a new gear in attack right now. And considering that they lead the league in goals through two games with five, that’s scary for opponents, as Pacific has proven to be ruthless in the final third through their first two games. Paced by Alejandro Diaz, whose two goals lead the league so far, and supported by early MVP candidate, Marco Bustos (four assists), as well as Josh Heard (one goal, one assist) and Manny Aparicio (one goal), Pacific’s front four has looked lethal to start the year, showing great chemistry. Despite losing their leading scorer from last season, Terran Campbell, they haven’t missed a beat without him, showing their depth in attack, of which they’re not fully tapping into quite yet, either. As a result, look for them to continue to grow in that regard in this game. For example, it’s worth noting that despite their five goals in two games, they’ve generated just a hair over six Expected Goals (xG) in that same time span, showing that they could be scoring even more than they are right now, something that Merriman is looking to try and extract from his team going forward. “That's something that we want as a team,” Merriman said. “To give them freedom, especially in the final third, and I think you've seen some really good moments, and then also you're seeing moments where we do need to be more clinical, a little bit more ruthless when we get into those final acts to take our chances.”


HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || Pacific FC wins: 4 || Draws: 4

Previous match:

October 11, 2021 – HFX Wanderers 1-0 Pacific FC


“Overall, I have to agree, the quality of play has been good, there's a certain amount of growth that’s gone on, there’s a familiarity breeding in the league now, and I still think the quality could be even better.” -- Halifax Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart

“I think creating chances is the important part, and that's what we want to do with the quality of central midfielders that we have and players that we (have who) can play in those front three positions. Creating chances is important, (and that’s) something that we've been working on and speaking about.” -- Pacific FC head coach James Merriman

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