2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #39
FC Edmonton vs. HFX Wanderers
June 14, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. AT
Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
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As the Canadian Premier League table continues to tighten up, it’s a great chance to make up some ground.
Especially after a week of big results for those in the middle of the pack in the CPL standings, it has created a great opportunity for everyone to get right back into the race, as the gap between first and fourth has narrowed to just four points as of writing.
Because of that, a big opportunity looms for both FC Edmonton and the HFX Wanderers on Tuesday night, as they get set to do battle at Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium. In a rematch of the Wanderers’ home opener from April 30th, a game in which the Wanderers grabbed a commanding 3-1 result despite Edmonton going up early 1-0, it’s a good chance to see how much both sides have changed since that game, especially given the magnitude of this second encounter.
For the hosts, Edmonton, it’s a chance to finally pick up that first victory of the season, one that they seem closer to than ever, yet continues to elude them. There was no better example of that than in their last game, where despite being on the road against Valour, they held onto a 1-0 lead for much of the contest, before being forced to settle for a draw right in the 94th minute of 94.
So while things might feel gloomy for Edmonton right now, as they sit at the bottom of the table, with four points from 10 games, that latest game showed how close they are to breaking through, just needing that moment of magic to go their way in a game.
Should it come in this game, however, that’ll all of a sudden put them just two points behind York United in seventh place, and four points behind the fifth-placed Wanderers, showing why they’ll be hungry to find that first victory in this one, knowing that it could instantly turn around their fortunes.
“You can see individuals are rising from this experience,” FC Edmonton head coach, Alan Koch, said of his team’s play lately. “But you can also see that our collective is improving. We are a team that is better now than we were when we started the season, and we will be better in another month, and we will be better than a month after that, because there’s a willingness from our players and ourselves to push and to get better every single day.”
RELATED: CPL Goals of the Month (May) | Gatorade Team of the Week (CPL Week 9) | Match Analysis: Valour FC 1-1 FC Edmonton — CPL Match #35 | Match Analysis: Cavalry FC 1-0 HFX Wanderers — CPL Match #36
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Wanderers are also going to be very aware of the opportunity that this game presents for them.
Sitting in fifth, as mentioned above, a victory in this game would put them in a tie for fourth, putting them in a playoff spot and just four points behind first. Which for a Wanderers side that has dealt with its fair share of injuries, and is still finding the best version of themselves, wouldn’t be a bad place to find themselves in as they crest the 10-game mark of this campaign.
When they’ve been on their game, they’ve been tough to beat defensively, sitting fourth in Expected Goals against with 9.68, and fourth in goals-against with 11, but offensively, they haven’t always been able to match that.
Therefore, ahead of this game, they’ll look to find a few goals, allowing them to grab that crucial victory. Because if not?
As seen in their last two results, a 1-0 win over York and a 1-0 loss to Cavalry, this game could be decided on the finest of margins, only potentially opening the door for more heartbreak like the one they suffered in Calgary, where a set-piece was the difference in an otherwise solid road showing from them.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve just got to keep working at it,” Wanderers head coach, Stephen Hart, said ahead of this game. “And hope that if we continue the process of what we’re doing, and how we are trying to play it at some point, (trust) that it’s going to come.”
Yet, those fine margins would only be a fair reflection of this competitive CPL table, one that has really started to get interesting as of late, showing why the race towards the ‘North Star Shield’ is looking like one that’ll go down to the wire, for all involved. Especially if these latest results are to mean anything, something that these two teams will look to continue on Tuesday.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Edmonton looking to push that first win over the line: As mentioned earlier, Edmonton enters this game looking for their first win of the CPL campaign, something that they’ll look to tick off the list on Tuesday. But if they’re to do that, however, they’ll need to take care of one item of business – find a way to close out the match, especially if they grab an early goal. It’s not as if Edmonton is getting blown out every game, as they’ve drawn four out of 10 games, and lost three others by just one goal, but they’ve just failed to see things over the line in several games, with this latest Valour game being an example of that. Because of that, finding a way to change that is imperative. As they’ve shown in flashes, when Edmonton clicks, they can be a tough team to take down, as they’re both organized defensively, but also efficient on the counter. Led by the solid Andreas Vaikla in goal, and with solid contributors all over the pitch, such as Nyal Higgins and Luke Singh at the back, Mamadi Camara, Gabriel Bitar and Simon Triantfillou in the middle, and Tobias Warschewski in attack, there’s no doubt that the foundation is there for Edmonton, in key areas. Now, they just need to take that next step forward, and this game could be a perfect chance for them to do that, especially given that they’ve picked up three draws in six games at home, and have lost by more than one goal just once otherwise at Clarke Stadium, meaning that some home cooking could be exactly what the doctor ordered for them. “Our group is ready to embrace another opportunity,” Koch said. “I felt like we embraced 94 minutes of the previous game, and unfortunately took our foot slightly off the pedal at the end, so we want to try to put a 90-plus minute performance together in this one.”
- Wanderers continue their hunt for more goals: It’s never easy to lose a player, but especially not the defending MVP and golden boot winner, as was the case for the Wanderers when they lost João Morelli at the beginning of this campaign. Because of that, it’s understandable to see that the Wanderers have struggled offensively this season, sitting with just nine goals in nine games, having been shut out in four of those nine games. At the same time, it feels like the Wanderers aren’t fully maximizing their attacking potential, either. With a solid midfield, and attacking options such as Aidan Daniels, Akeem Garcia, Sam Salter and Cory Bent, the talent is certainly there, but it’s just not clicking, as shown by the Wanderers 10.67 xG, which is good for second-last in the CPL. So for the Wanderers, they’ll want to use this game as a chance to really push that side of their game forward. Especially given how solid they are defensively, taking a step forward offensively would only aid their playoff push, one that is in a pretty good place right now. Because of that, look for the Wanderers to start being more ruthless and efficient in their opponents’ boxes, starting with this game, as they try to push into the top four of the league table. “It’s our final shot, as much as it is the quality of the shot,” Hart said of his team’s struggles. “We had good chances, but we just lacked that quality in our final shot.”
- Can Edmonton’s rested legs take down the Wanderers’ tired crew? Interestingly, something to note from when these last two teams met? Edmonton entered that game coming off of a midweek game, while the Wanderers were fresh, something that potentially manifested itself as the Wanderers survived an early goal from Edmonton to win 3-1, outlasting Edmonton’s tired legs. This time, however, the tables are turned, as Edmonton comes into this one fresh, having gotten over a week to rest since their last game, while the Wanderers played just three days ago. Because of that, look for Edmonton to try and make the most of that. Having had that extra preparation time, that’ll give them an edge in terms of preparing for what this Wanderers side will want to bring, especially given that they played just days prior. Seeing how the Wanderers’ last game finished, which was in heartbreak up the road to Cavalry, you have to imagine that’ll be front of mind for them, something that Edmonton will certainly be aware of. “It was a bit difficult to accept,” Hart said of the Cavalry loss. “(Especially) when I looked at the first-half performance, the chances we created, the opportunities that we had in terms of entries into attacking areas etc.” Because of that, look for Edmonton to try and take advantage of that, making up for the tough visit to Halifax that their visitors gave them last time around, returning the favour with a win of their own this time around. “When we played them at their place, they were significantly better than us,” Koch admitted. “So we know it’s going to be a tough challenge, but these are the games that we want to play, we felt that we deserved the three points against Valour, but we didn’t get them, unfortunately, so we’re going to go in and give everything we can to try to get the three points this time.”
HFX Wanderers wins: 4 || FC Edmonton wins: 3 || Draws: 2
April 30, 2022 – HFX Wanderers 3-1 FC Edmonton
“Whenever we play, we go in trying to do something special, we know the odds are stacked against us, but that doesn’t really change how we go about our work, and what our personal expectations are of each other – we want to go into these games and get three points.” — FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch.
“Yeah, they’re good at home. They’ve been improving every game, so we have to be in full concentration, because they are a team that is very organized, one that loves to play off the counter, and we have to limit their attacks (because of that).” — HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart.