PREVIEW: HFX Wanderers vs Atlético Ottawa — Match #36

2021 CPL regular season — Match #36
HFX Wanderers vs. Atlético Ottawa
August 2, 2021 at 3 pm AT/2 pm ET
Wanderers Grouds in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Watch Live: // Tickets available here


HFX Wanderers: Christian Oxner, Morey Doner, Alessandro Riggi, Akeem Garcia, Mateo Restrepo, Kareem Sow, Andre Rampersad (c), Jake Ruby, Marcello Polisi, Joao Morelli, Cory Bent

Atlético Ottawa: Dylon Powley, Drew Beckie, Milovan Kapor, Viti Martinez, Chris Mannella, Ryan Telfer, Alberto Soto, Zach Verhoven, Miguel Acosta, Rafael Núñez, Raul Uche


HFX Wanderers return home on Monday afternoon for their first game at Wanderers Grounds since October 2019 with a match against Atlético Ottawa.

It will be a day of celebration in Halifax, as it sees the homecoming of their soccer team, but it’s also a holiday in Nova Scotia — Natal Day, which celebrates the “birth” of the province. Always a lively atmosphere at Wanderers Grounds, this one should have a special atmosphere given all the circumstances around it.

“It’s almost as if we’re back to the beginning and the first game at the stadium, we haven’t been there in so long,” said Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart. “It just felt so strange being on the grass, seeing the familiar surroundings, the dressing room, everything.

“It’s just a matter of looking forward to it, and bringing a good performance to those people who have suffered just as much as we have.”

For Atlético Ottawa, it’s a first away game ever — the first 15 matches of their history have taken place at neutral sites in PEI and Winnipeg.

“I was lucky to play in that first season, so I’ve been able to have a normal season in terms of travelling between cities and having 5-7 games between days, whereas other coaching staff and so many of our players haven’t,” said Atlético Ottawa assistant coach Ajay Khabra, who will be standing in for the suspended Mista on Monday afternoon. “Everybody is super excited — it is different because over two years we haven’t had that yet.

“I’m trying to prepare them for how exciting and what a great environment these cities are to play in, and of course we’re super excited to play in our home city.”

The match itself sees the 7th and 8th-placed clubs square off — HFX (2-2-4) and Ottawa (2-1-5), respectively — as both look to bounce back after The Kickoff in Winnipeg wasn’t very kind to them. Both struggled to score goals at times, and will be hoping to get off to a good start at Wanderers Grounds and start to work their way back up the table.

These teams have met just once before — in the final matchday of the first round at the Island Games in 2020. HFX Wanderers ended up taking that match 2-0 with goals from Akeem Garcia and Alessandro Riggi the difference.

Atlético Ottawa are welcoming some players into their squad, with 23-year-old Spanish striker Raúl Uche announced on Wednesday, and Ryan Telfer returning from Gold Cup duty with Trinidad and Tobago. Both are available and expected to play a part in the match.

HFX Wanderers have been dealing with a lot of injuries in the early part of the season, with Hart admitting that at times they only had about 15 players to pick from.

“We were rotating a very small squad of players,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “At some times there were people dressed on the bench that we knew couldn’t play, just to look like we had numbers.”

The week off after the bubble helped them with rest and recovery, with Hart suggesting that the time helped them both physically and mentally. “When they returned to training it was like a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Make your match picks prior to kickoff at for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!


  • One coach returns, while another misses out: After leaving the Winnipeg bubble to return to Halifax and have a minor medical procedure done, Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart will be back on sidelines on Monday for the return to Halifax. Assistant coach Mesut Mert took over in the meantime, coaching them to a 2-2-2 record in his six matches in charge. Hart is excited to get back out there with his Wanderers side after watching from afar. “It was good to get out with [the players], and [I missed] everything that goes with the job and with what I love to do. Staff had a very difficult task because this wasn’t planned, they did admirably well and held out as best they could in some tough conditions. I’m happy to be back and to help ease some of the burden.” Ottawa boss Mista will miss out through suspension after being ejected from their last game in Winnipeg, so assistant coach Ajay Khabra will be on the touchline for this match instead. Khabra played for FC Edmonton in 2019 and for Atlético Ottawa in 2020, and has transitioned into a coaching role in 2021. “It’s been different for sure, there are a lot of challenges that you face that you don’t really expect when you make that transition,” he said. “Working with this coaching staff and players has been awesome… I’m looking forward to continuing this role and helping out the team as much as I possibly can.”
  • No McKendry for Ottawa: Part of the “M&M&M” trio in the Ottawa midfield with Chris Mannella and Viti Martinez, Ben McKendry has been one of the league’s best midfielders in 2021 thus far, but he won’t be on the pitch in Halifax. McKendry was sent off in his side’s 4-2 defeat to Pacific FC in the final game in the Winnipeg bubble for a poor challenge in the middle of the park. It wasn’t malicious but the nature of the challenge — McKendry sliding in with his foot high off the ground — gave the referee no choice but to show a red. He’ll be missed in Ottawa’s midfield, and will be eligible to return for their match against Forge FC on August 8th.
  • Will Akeem Garcia get going at home?: HFX Wanderers were shutout in five of their eight games in Winnipeg, only scoring twice in one game as Joao Morelli powered them to a 2-1 win over FC Edmonton. Star striker Akeem Garcia is yet to find the back of the net this season after winning the Golden Boot a year ago and being nominated for the league’s Player of the Year award, so getting him going should be a priority. He’s one of the league’s best attackers when he’s firing on all cylinders, and once he finds a first of the season, the floodgates could very well open. A first game in front of his club’s home fans could be the spark he needs to get his name onto the scoresheet for the first time in 2021.


HFX Wanderers wins: 1 || Atlético Ottawa wins: 0 || Draws: 0

Previous match:

September 6, 2020 — HFX Wanderers 2-0 Atlético Ottawa


“They’re a good squad, they have their moments, especially going forward, and now they’ll have (Ryan) Telfer back, which gives them an added dimension. They’re a good team, and they’ve had some very good games — I thought they were unfortunate in some of those games… things don’t always go your way.” – HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart 

“They’re a tough team to play against. They’ve got a good coach and some talented players, and then playing at home is going to give them a big boost as well. We’ll look to do the things we normally do, and the things that make us successful, and I think it’ll be a good, competitive game.” – Atlético Ottawa assistant coach Ajay Khabra