After 45 minutes, HFX Wanderers entered the locker room on a sunny Spring day at Wanderers Grounds far from chipper.
A late first-half marker from Pacific FC’s Terran Campbell sent Stephen Hart and co. to the room looking to correct an overrun midfield and, in turn, connect better with Luis Perea up top.
“I asked Kodai [Iida] to play higher up the pitch, closer to [Luis] Perea because he was all alone, and to get the backline closer to the midfield,” Hart revealed, of his halftime adjustments.
Hart targetted the right players. Iida and Perea were key to overturning the deficit in the second half, the first time this CPL season team has won after conceding the first goal, with the Wanderers coming out with a 2-1 win over their fellow oceanside opponents.
The Japanese midfielder chipped a through pass onto a line-breaking Akeem Garcia who himself chipped an onrushing Mark Village to level the match at the 51-minute mark. Iida would once again play creator in the 67th minute, drawing a penalty after rushing into the box, which Perea placed into the bottom right corner.
Perea’s penalty was something special too: a small and measured run-up followed with a powerful smash of the ball – a veteran move from HFX’s talismanic striker, who returned to competitive action on Wednesday after a hand injury kept him out of the side for nearly a month.
The 32-year-old had previously been highlighted as HFX’s missing piece after making his only appearance, and scoring the winning goal, in a 2-1 win at home to Forge FC, which was the east coast side’s only league win before Saturday’s result.
Two victories, two winning goals from the Colombian. Not bad.
“Having Luis back is a big boost for the players because he gives us something a little different,” Hart continued, “When you have Iida running off him, Garcia running off him, and [Mohamed] Kourouma running off him, you have three threats running from deep and you know he won’t give the ball away.”
Perea revealed he had surgery on his hand in post-match interviews. He was wearing protective gear on his left hand on Saturday.
“(I’m) not 100%,” Perea admitted. “I’m carrying injuries, especially with my hand … It is uncomfortable to play but the confidence I have from my coach and teammates makes it much easier.”
Saturday’s win was the Wanderers’ third league match in a week. After picking up a point midweek against York9 FC Hart’s side now sits in third place in the CPL Spring season with a 2-3-1 record.
“Collectively, we have to fight and not put our heads down and still, at the same time, be composed,” Hart said. “They showed good character in both these games.”