PREVIEW: Halifax Wanderers vs. Atlético Ottawa — CPL Match #99

2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #99
Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Atlético Ottawa
September 18, 2023 at 7 p.m. AT/6 p.m. ET
Wanderers Grounds in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Watch Live: & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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The CPL’s weekend ends with a pivotal clash in Halifax between two sides tied in the standings and locked in an incredibly tight playoff race, as Atlético Ottawa head east to play the Wanderers on Monday night, in a game that’s been rescheduled from its original Saturday slot due to the Maritime weather.

Patrice Gheisar’s Halifax side goes into this weekend sitting in the fifth and final playoff spot with 33 points, level with Ottawa but technically behind because they have one fewer win. They’ll be desperate to claim all three points against a direct rival in the standings, because the Wanderers would love to move into the top four and guarantee themselves a home game in the playoffs.

In their midweek tilt, Halifax lost a 2-1 decision to league leaders Cavalry FC, as Dan Nimick scored a late penalty and they nearly managed to find their equalizer but ultimately the Cavs left triumphant. That was the Wanderers’ second consecutive home defeat and they’re now winless in their last three, so expect a side desperate to reverse their fortunes quickly this weekend.

Ottawa, meanwhile, know they’re technically ahead of the Wanderers right now, but that could change in an instant — particularly with sixth-place York United, on 32 points, breathing down their necks as well.

Atleti also played a midweek game, hosting Pacific FC on Wednesday in a dramatic affair that ended 1-1. They fell behind relatively early, but turned the tide quickly and equalized thanks to Maxim Tissot’s outstanding free kick in the second half. That said, coach Carlos González might have felt they left two points on the table, especially considering Ollie Bassett missed a penalty not long before the equalizer.

These sides have technically met four times this year, including a Canadian Championship scrap that Ottawa won 3-1. In CPL play, the season series is split, with both teams winning at home once and the two teams sharing a 1-1 draw on opening day back in April.

The most recent contest was a 1-0 win for Halifax at home, where Théo Collomb scored a lovely first-half goal to put his side in front for good.

The availability report for both sides carries a few question marks. For Ottawa, centre-back Karl Ouimette will miss out with suspension, but González hinted recently that Diego Espejo may be getting closer to a return after missing the last six games — though an appearance this weekend feels unlikely. Halifax, meanwhile, are awaiting an update on star attacker João Morelli, who limped off on Tuesday night with injury. Gheisar suggested on Friday that Morelli may be out for a significant spell, which will be heartbreaking for the Brazilian after his recent return to play, but the club will remain hopeful he can contribute down the stretch.

With both teams certain to be fighting tooth-and-nail for their playoff lives, spectators in Nova Scotia may be in for the most dramatic afternoon at the Wanderers Grounds yet.

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  • Halifax must shore up Wanderers Grounds fortress: The Wanderers have lost their last two matches at home — the first time all season they’ve lost back-to-back on Nova Scotian soil. Still, Halifax’s seven home league wins this year are joint-most in the CPL and also a club record; their 22 points at the Wanderers Grounds is also tied for a club record, with two games left at home. Those are certainly the statistics Patrice Gheisar will prefer to focus on, but the Wanderers know they have to be better than they were against Cavalry or York if they’re to play at home in the playoffs.


  • Ottawa looking for more explosive counter-attack: The story of Atleti’s comeback draw with Pacific on Wednesday was one of quickly reversing the tide of a game, taking control instantly after absorbing pressure and conceding in the first half-hour. Postmatch, Carlos González discussed how in the opening stages, his side hadn’t been nearly dangerous enough in the counter-attack, giving the ball right back to Pacific after winning it. The transition game has been a big part of Ottawa’s success the past couple of years, especially away from home, and they’ll need to get back to that on Monday to try and get behind the Wanderers’ defence. Look for them to try and play vertically with Ollie Bassett distributing to either wingbacks or a centre-forward like Malcolm Shaw or Samuel Salter.


  • Time to take risks and go for the win: The only team that would be happy with a draw in this game is York United. If Halifax and Ottawa both take one point here, they’ll be pretty much where they started, and York will have a chance to pass both of them with a win on Sunday. However, if one of these two manages to win outright and take all three points, they’ll make serious headway progress toward securing their berth in the top five, and put genuine breathing room between themselves and their defeated opponent. That means it’s unlikely we’ll see either team playing it safe, even if the score is tied late in this game. Expect some twists and turns and perhaps some brave attacking football, with both teams needing to go all-out for the win. “We have such a young team that when we say ‘important,’ immediately pressure starts to build,” Patrice Gheisar said on managing his side’s composure in big games. “[It brings] either the best out of you, when you’re against the wall, or makes you feel anxious… our principles of play will never change; I’ve said this, we’ve stuck to this. There’s been games we’ve dropped energy, whatever happens, but we’re going to play like we always do.”


Halifax Wanderers (4-3-3): Fillion; Fernandez, Nimick, Loughrey, Timoteo; Daniels, Callegari, Rampersad; Coimbra, Perruzza, Ferrin

Atlético Ottawa (3-5-2): Ingham; Acosta, Singh, Niba; Assi, Bassett, Zapater, Verhoeven, Tissot; Shaw, Salter


Halifax Wanderers wins: 5 || Atlético Ottawa wins: 7 || Draws: 3

Last meeting:

July 23, 2023 – Halifax Wanderers 1-0 Atlético Ottawa