2022 CPL Regular Season -- Match #1 York United vs. HFX Wanderers FC April 7, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. ET York Lions Stadium in Toronto, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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The 2022 Canadian Premier League season is, at last, upon us. This year, it'll be York United with the honours of hosting the opener -- though it's their second time appearing in the first match -- as HFX Wanderers travel to York Lions Stadium to get us underway for the league's fourth season. These sides grew all too familiar with one another in 2021, as they met five times in the regular season. Each meeting was decided by no more than a goal, with four draws and just once decisive bout, which York won 3-2 on August 7. The two clubs delivered a few of the most entertaining contests of the year, including a thrilling 3-3 draw at a rainy Wanderers Grounds on Labour Day, which featured four goals in the last 10 minutes. The two clubs have undergone some changes over the offseason, after spending most of the 2021 campaign neck-and-neck in the standings. York, who finished fourth last year with an 8-12-8 (W-D-L) record, lost in the CPL semifinal at Tim Hortons Field to Forge FC, although a trip to the playoffs was a serious step forward for the club. Still, change came swiftly. The club replaced inaugural head coach Jimmy Brennan with Martin Nash, previously a Cavalry FC assistant (and a former Canadian men's national team stalwart) and strengthened the cast of young players both domestic and international. "I want the team to be more aggressive, more on the front foot, try to dictate the tempo of the game," Nash told CanPL.ca on Wednesday. "They were successful last year playing deeper and more of a counter-attack style, but I think we've got the athletes, and players who are technical enough, to dictate the tempo of the game." Last year's entertaining core of youngsters, including Max Ferrari, Lowell Wright, and Isaiah Johnston, is joined now by Mamadou Kané, as well as incoming internationals like Daniel Obekkjaer, Martin Graiciar, and Mateo Hernández (who was on loan from the club last year in Costa Rica). A handful of other newcomers round out a roster that could well be one of the most dynamic and entertaining in 2022. Hoping to spoil the part in York Region, however, are the Wanderers. Stephen Hart's side missed out on the playoffs -- to York -- by one point in 2021, finishing sixth on tiebreakers behind Valour with an 8-11-9 record. Although they became an extremely difficult side to beat, HFX scored the fewest goals in the CPL last year (28), which kept them out of the win column more often than they would have liked. That said, they certainly found some goalscoring ability in Brazilian star João Morelli, who was the CPL's Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner last season after potting 14 goals in 2021. Coach Stephen Hart said a few times during the season, though, that he was desperate for some of his other players to shoulder some of the attacking load. In the offseason, they tried to add a little more firepower by signing a few midfielders that could bring creativity and help produce more good scoring chances. Aidan Daniels, formerly of the Toronto FC academy and a Canadian youth international, has made the jump out to the East Coast, as has Mohamed Omar, a 23-year-old from Notre Dame University who was a first-round pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. "Our objective is to get to the playoffs," Hart told reporters on Wednesday. "Once you get to the playoffs it's almost a brand new season... After rewatching every game from last year, I thought we were very progressive, very dynamic. We got into the penalty area a lot against every one of our opponents, but we just weren't ruthless enough, or I should say maybe a little bit measured. Hopefully we can rectify that; we all know goals win matches, yes, but we also have to keep our defensive discipline as well." So, both these sides will be eager to get their campaign off to a good start on Thursday night, in what'll be the 12th meeting between York and Halifax in CPL history. Can Stephen Hart's Wanderers find the formula for goalscoring success? Or will a new tactical identity from Martin Nash give York the upper hand?

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  • Wanderers search for goals as Morelli looks to create: The incredible goalscoring form of João Morelli is, essentially, what carried the Wanderers so close to a playoff spot in 2021. This year, they'd like things to be a little different; Morelli is naturally an attacking midfielder, so the club might like to see him creating chances for teammates as much as he scores them himself. No other Wanderers player scored more than three league goals in 2021, though, so their number one objective this season is putting the ball in the net more consistently. "As a coach, you can bring the players to certain areas of the field; you work very, very hard at that," Hart explained Wednesday. "But at the end of the day, the end product is the ability to take your chance. You cannot teach a team to score goals."​
  • New-look York hoping for bright start: Although the bulk of their player core is returning to the club from 2021, much is new at York United this season. Top of the list in that regard is, of course, Martin Nash, who took over from Jimmy Brennan as head coach at the end of last year and brought with him a new staff. Plus, the international contingent is much changed in 2022; expect Sebastian Gutíerrez, who arrived midway through last season, to have a much bigger impact with a full preseason now behind him. Mateo Hernández, the young Argentine who spent last year on loan in Costa Rica, is likely to be a massive piece of the puzzle this year too. And don't forget about Oliver Minatel, the tricky Brazilian winger with solid CPL experience playing for Cavalry FC the past three years.​
  • Direct play or control? Toward the end of last season, York seemed to develop into one of the most entertaining sides in the CPL with their ability to defend well then get the ball forward and play vertically on the counter-attack. Halifax, too, have had elements of that directness in their best performances -- it was essentially the style that carried them to the final in 2020. Under a new coach this year, though, York will surely have a different tactical identity. Plus, with full preseasons this year and more runway over the course of the season, each CPL side will be able to develop more detailed and nuanced styles of play, with a more advanced degree of tactical intelligence. "Jimmy (Brennan) was more free-flowing, attacking style of football," York captain Roger Thompson said, "Whereas (Nash) is more structured, he has a feeling of what he wants to do." Perhaps we'll see York hold the ball more, with Noah Verhoeven or Isaiah Johnston running the show centrally? Or might the Wanderers look to play with possession, playing through Aidan Daniels to get the ball to wide attackers?


York United wins: 2 || HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || Draws: 7

Previous match:

October 3, 2021 – York United 2-2 HFX Wanderers


"(Halifax) will be very organized, very solid defensively. They have some good weapons that can hurt you, so it's never an easy game against them. I think they're a team that's never been blown out, everything seems like a one-goal game, so I'm expecting a tough battle and a team that's very organized." -- York United head coach Martin Nash

"I think it's great to finally be able to play games again and have a regular season. Since the first year we've had bubble after bubble; now you have one, two games a week, it's a regular season, everyone's excited." -- York United defender Roger Thompson

"I think (York) have got a very balanced squad; a midfield that loves to go box to box, and some very dynamic players on top. They've always been a difficult opponent for us, but also we've had some very exciting games against each other." -- HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart

"We have a lot to prove; it’s funny, we’re always the underdogs for the league, but it’s okay. We’re gonna prove a lot of people wrong for sure this year." -- HFX Wanderers attacker João Morelli

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