2021 CPL regular season — Match #71 (ComeOn! Match of the Week) York United vs. HFX Wanderers FC September 18, 2021 at 2:00 pm ET York Lions Stadium, Toronto, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Tickets available here


This Saturday's ComeOn! Match of the Week is a scintillating clash between two sides scrambling desperately for points as they compete directly for the final playoff spot this CPL season. Riding a two-game winning streak are York United, who remain at home after picking up a professional 2-0 win on Tuesday night over Atlético Ottawa. Last weekend, the Nine Stripes really burst into form with a statement 2-0 win on the road against 905 Derby rivals Forge FC. Thanks to those two results, Jimmy Brennan's side has vaulted into fourth place ahead of Valour FC, with a 6-7-5 record and 25 points giving them a three-point cushion for that last playoff place (the same margin by which they trail third-place Forge). "We're in that situation right now where we're in the playoffs, (HFX) are just right behind us -- same with Valour," Brennan said on Friday afternoon. "The three of us are gonna keep going at it probably for the next number of games, until one of us pulls away. Hopefully it's us, but I think every game from now on are going to be very competitive as we come towards the end of the season." This weekend's visitors, HFX Wanderers FC, arrive in York Region with some good form of their own. They haven't lost in six straight CPL matches, and after a run of mostly draws they've picked up two wins in their last three. Like York, the Wanderers' two recent triumphs came against Forge and Atlético Ottawa -- the latter being a 2-1 road win at TD Place last Saturday where HFX took all three points thanks to an 89th-minute Joao Morelli winner. The Wanderers remain in sixth place in the league, but with a 5-6-6 record and 21 points they're only four behind York -- with a game in hand to boot. This game will, therefore, have massive implications in the standings as each side fights for that fourth position. "Every game now looks almost like a final to us," revealed Wanderers coach Stephen Hart on Friday. "Certainly York are the hot team in the east, and they've found a patch of form, so we know what we have to do." These two teams have played each other three times already this year, and each meeting has been full-value for entertainment. Most recently, York and HFX played out an incredible 3-3 draw at Wanderers Grounds, where the home side scored three times in the final 10 minutes, first to erase a 2-0 deficit and then to equalize yet again after York's Alvaro Rivero scored what looked like the winner in the 90th minute. Overall, two of the three contests between these teams ended in a draw. York claimed the edge in the first game, with a 90th-minute Lowell Wright winner in Halifax giving them the win back on August 7. Can the Wanderers come out on top from this fixture for the first time since October 2019? Or will York add to their advantage and begin to cement their playoff spot? There's a lot on the line in Saturday's ComeOn! Match of the Week.

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  • Can Morelli be contained? HFX Wanderers attacker Joao Morelli has, in recent weeks, added significantly to his lead atop the CPL's golden boot standings -- making him, in all likelihood, the current frontrunner for the 2021 Player of the Year award. He's got 11 goals this year, with two in each of his last three games played; in fact, Morelli has scored six of the Wanderers' last nine goals (and he didn't even play in one of the four games from that stretch), and over the full season he accounts for just over half of the team's 20 goals scored. He'll certainly be the player to watch in this game, with York needing to pay special attention to the Brazilian. Stephen Hart may choose to play around with where exactly Morelli lines up in the squad -- he's played as a striker and a winger, and he played the last game in Ottawa in his more natural no. 10 position. Regardless, York need to be aware of him at all times -- and even if they can contain him, a few unsung heroes of the Wanderers attack (Sam Salter, Stefan Karajovanovic, Cory Bent, and so on) could still do some damage.​
  • Beware the late drama: The meetings between these sides in 2021 have seen six goals scored within the last 15 minutes of the game -- four of them, of course, coming in that 3-3 draw. Still, in all three contests, the result has been decided very late in the day. So, neither side can afford to get complacent, even if one jumps out to a lead. These are two teams who now know each other very well, so expect an intensely competitive game that should be very much unsettled right up to the final whistle. The two managers will, of course, be hoping for something a little less dramatic than the previous outing, but from a fan's perspective, some more fireworks would not be unwelcome. York gaffer Jimmy Brennan suggested this week that part of his side's DNA is being hard to beat -- which they certainly have been in recent games: "It'll never be an easy game against us, and the guys have got that in their mindset right now. We're not giving anything away for free; we'll work till the 95th minute to make sure that we get something out of the game, and the players have bought into that."​
  • York counter remains a threat: Both of these two teams have very direct elements to their attacking play, looking to put the ball forward with pace and strike before the opposition is set. In recent outings, York has been quite successful threatening from the counter attack, with players like Max Ferrari, Michael Petrasso and a deeper-lying Isaiah Johnston all excellent at playing vertical passes to create opportunities. The Wanderers have a good transitional game of their own, which might be a factor in why games between these teams are so entertaining, but they'll need to be careful about allowing too much open space for York to run into. With mobile defenders like Jake Ruby, HFX should be able to hold their own this time around, but defending the counter will be key in their pre-match discussion.​


HFX Wanderers wins: 2 || York United wins: 1 || Draws: 5

Previous match:

September 6, 2021 — HFX Wanderers 3-3 York United


"I think all the teams in the east are pretty balanced. All the games have been close, there are no runaway games. There's a lot of familiarity of course, and on the day it comes down to who makes less mistakes." – HFX Wanderers FC coach Stephen Hart

"When you play against each other so many times, you know everything about the team you're playing against, all their players. When it starts getting to these points it's about winning your individual battles. ." - York United head coach Jimmy Brennan​

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