2020 CPL regular season (The Island Games) — Match #3 HFX Wanderers FC vs. Pacific FC August 15, 2019 at 3:00 p.m ET/4:00 p.m. AT UPEI Artificial Turf Field in Charlottetown, PEI Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca and CBC
Canada’s “Coastal Clash” will begin anew in Charlottetown on Saturday as Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC open their Island Games accounts, slightly reducing one of the longest away trips in top-flight football by just a stone’s throw.
The Wanderers have 16 newcomers on their roster, trading in players who led them to a league-worst 28 points in 2019 for a new, exciting crop led by Louis Beland-Goyette and international attackers Alex Marshall and Joao Morelli. It’s the largest player turnover of any CPL club.
Pacific, meanwhile, took on a similar makeover – starting with coach Pa-Modou Kah. The first-time manager leads an impressive new-look roster, including CPL free agent Marco Bustos and former Liga MX veteran Alejandro Díaz. They’ve kept their young impressive core from 2019, too, with Noah Verhoeven and Terran Campbell back for the Tridents.
With no pre-season friendlies due to COVID-19 restrictions and so much turnover, it’s hard to predict how these teams will fair Saturday. But after almost 300 days of waiting, it won’t be long now before we find out.
These coastal rivals return to action next week, with Pacific taking on York9 FC on Tuesday (1:00 pm E.T;/2:00 p.m. AT), while HFX Wanderers plays Forge FC on Wednesday (8:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. AT).
The Bustos Factor: Pacific FC has one of the CPL’s most dangerous weapons, and could bust him out for the first time on Saturday. Marco Bustos has the ball control, speed of touch, and finishing ability to undo any CPL defence. If slotted on the right, with support from Noah Verhoeven, Alejandro Diaz, and Terran Campbell, the 24-year-old attacker could be even more lethal than last year, when he led Valour FC in scoring with seven goals.
More Morelli: On the other side of this coastal clash is Brazilian newcomer Joao Morelli, who mirrors Bustos style of play, but is inexperienced in the CPL. The 24-year-old has the potential to be a game-breaking figure, with goalscoring ability from open play and dead-ball scenarios. It will be interesting to see how he fares, especially with one of the CPL’s best attacking midfielders on the other side.
Wide Wanderers: Look for both teams to gain control of the wide spaces early. HFX coach Stephen Hart is known for having his players pounding the touchline in search for openings (think of Mo Kourouma in 2019) and using overlaps to gain ground – Cory Hart and Alex Marshall will be catalysts in these wide roles. Pacific, meanwhile, can rely heavily on quality fullbacks such as Marcel de Jong and Kadin Chung to shoulder more than their fair share of defensive responsibilities. Watch to see how these battles develop.
HFX Wanderers FC Christian Oxner – Doubtful (lower body)