2021 CPL regular season — Match #95
Cavalry FC vs. HFX Wanderers FC
October 17, 2021 at 4 pm ET/2 pm MT
ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta
Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Buy tickets HERE
The battle for playoff positioning will continue at Spruce Meadows this weekend, as HFX Wanderers pay a visit to Alberta to play Cavalry FC in the second match of a CPL doubleheader on Sunday afternoon.
Cavalry will continue their homestand with some momentum behind them, coming off a gutsy 2-1 win on Thursday night over York United — a game in which they also did the Wanderers a favour. After conceding early and going down to 10 men at the end of the first half, they managed to pull out the victory thanks to a set-piece goal with just 10 minutes to go. That result put the Cavs at the top of the CPL table heading into the weekend, with a game in hand on second-place Pacific FC — who take on Valour on Saturday night in hopes of reclaiming first place.
Still, Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s Cavs have an 11-7-5 record, and they’re now unbeaten in their last four games. This is the third game of a six-match homestand, which will take them nearly to the end of the season (with one last contest set to come away to Forge FC). So, they’ll be keen on picking up as many points as possible at ATCO Field. They’ll be without captain Nik Ledgerwood unfortunately, after he left Thursday’s match with an injury. Other casualties from that heated match include Joseph Di Chiara and José Escalante, as well as Wheeldon himself, with all three of them picking up suspensions.
The visitors on Sunday afternoon will be a Wanderers team also in the thick of a heated playoff race. Their grip on the fourth and final playoff spot is razor-thin — just one point ahead of York entering the weekend, thanks in part to the Nine Stripes’ dropped points at Cavalry on Thursday — as HFX sit on 32 points with 23 games played. They’ve had a little more rest time since their last outing, which was a pivotal 1-0 win over Pacific FC on Thanksgiving Monday at Wanderers Grounds.
Stephen Hart’s men will likely prove a tough out for Cavalry, especially considering they’ve lost just one of their seven away games since leaving the Winnipeg bubble — although they’ve drawn five of them. If nothing else, the Wanderers are a very difficult team to beat.
These teams met twice at The Kickoff in Winnipeg back in the early stages of the season. The first was a cagey 0-0 draw, but later in July they fought out a match that ended 2-1 for Cavalry, thanks to goals both sides of halftime for Anthony Novak and Ali Musse. The Wanderers have won just once against the Cavs in eight meetings, but they’d love to add another to that column this weekend.
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All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH:
- Cavalry turning Spruce Meadows into a fortress: It’s a bit of a cliché in sports, but Cavalry’s staff and players have spoken consistently about turning their home field into a very difficult place for opponents to visit. Their crowds are strong, the new-and-improved grass pitch is excellent, and occasionally the weather makes things even more difficult for the opposition — as it did on Thursday when the temperature neared freezing. With this lengthy homestand coming right at the end of the season, the Cavs are desperate to bank as many points as possible at Spruce Meadows and establish dominance at home that they can carry into the playoffs. “Our home field advantage has been strong from 2019 through to now in league games,” Wheeldon said on Friday. “We don’t give away many points, we win a lot at home and we don’t lose many so home field advantage is important, especially in Calgary, especially with the altitude… Every man that we put out there just gives everything they have and finds that extra gear, so it does matter being here at home and playing in front of our fans.”
- Wanderers need scoring without Morelli: Star Brazilian forward Joao Morelli has been the focal point of the Wanderers’ attack throughout this season, with a league-leading 14 goals for the club — more than the rest of his teammates combined. However, Morelli’s absence from the squad for Saturday’s game against Pacific might’ve been cause for concern, especially considering he was limited to just one minute in a game not long before that (although he played the full 90 in a game against Forge in between those two). Coach Stephen Hart revealed on Saturday that Morelli didn’t travel with the squad to Calgary — nor did Alex Marshall — so they’ll need others to step up. Hart has been crying out all year for his other attackers to shoulder more of the attacking burden, and they’ve improved in that regard recently, but they’ll need more. “Really and truly, I don’t care who scores once the goals go in,” Hart said.
- Can HFX turn road draws into wins? The Wanderers have been extremely hard to beat, even on the road, this season, with just one loss away from him since the Winnipeg bubble, but with five draws in that stretch they’ll be feeling a little like they’ve left some points on the table. Asked about his side’s road form, and how they might start turning a couple more of those results into victories, Hart offered that he’s hoping his team can see out game more comfortably after taking the lead. “That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it,” he said. “We’ve been in situations where we went ahead and gave up the lead, hopefully that’s behind us and we’ve learned to close off the games better. But we have to; these away games, we have to steal some points from somewhere, preferably a win rather than a tie, but we’re well aware of what needs to be done.”
Cavalry wins: 5 || HFX Wanderers wins: 1 || Draws: 2
July 17, 2021 – HFX Wanderers 1-2 Cavalry FC
“(Cavalry) have always been a team that enjoys a physical matchup. They’re well coached, they’re tactically sound; I’m expecting nothing different from them, they’re gonna put us under a lot of pressure and try to take advantage of our jet lag.” – HFX Wanderers coach Stephen Hart
“I’m surprised that (HFX) aren’t closer in points to the top as they are, because I think Harty’s a terrific coach; they’ve got the highest scorer in the league, they’ve got a solid defence, an industrious midfield, and they’ve got pace out wide.” – Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.