PREVIEW: York United FC vs. HFX Wanderers — 2022 Match #96
Mitchell Tierney, Digital Content Producer (@mitchelltierney)
2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #96 York United FC vs. HFX Wanderers September 16, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. AT York Lions Stadium in Toronto, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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This weekend could very well be the end of the road for one of these two teams.
While mathematically it is not technically a “must win” for Halifax or York United at York Lions Stadium on Friday, a loss could eliminate either team from playoff contention. York and Halifax currently sit seven and eight points respectively out of the fourth and final playoff spot, not to mention the negative goal difference both sides carry.
Should the Wanderers lose on Friday, they will be eliminated if either Valour or Pacific wins their matches. A draw could also see them eliminated should both Pacific and Valour win, or should one of those two sides win and Cavalry picks up a win or a draw.
For York, meanwhile, a loss could also see them eliminated from contention if both Pacific and Valour win their matches, or if one of those two teams wins and Cavalry wins or draws in the Al Classico.
With their backs against the wall, however, both sides have shown a good fight of late to keep their playoff hopes alive. York, in particular, has been the league’s hottest team, winning five of their last seven matches.
“It is going to be a difficult game, they are doing really well and have two clean sheets in a row,” said York United head coach Martin Nash. “They are on a good run, but so are we so both groups probably come into this match confident. It is one of those matches you want to play for. One that means something, so guys are going to be up for it and it should be a good game.”
Here is a look at where they stand currently, and their remaining schedule. It doesn’t get any easier for the Nine Stripes after this, as they take on three straight playoff hopefuls: Forge FC, Valour and Atlético Ottawa with the final two weeks of the season coming on the road.
Halifax has also looked much improved of late, with back-to-back clean sheets and a 1-0 victory against playoff hopeful Valour last weekend. But that improvement has thus far only really been evident at home. They have not won a match on the road since June 25.
Just like York, they have a very difficult run to end the season. They have Atlético Ottawa and Pacific at home, where they have not lost in four matches, before finishing the season at Tim Hortons Field against Forge.
While these are the league’s two lowest-scoring sides, York has looked anything but over the past few weeks. A number of key additions, most notably Mo Babouli, have ignited an offence that has scored three goals or more in five of their last seven matches, dating back to a 4-2 win over Wanderers in Halifax on August 1.
“With Babouli he has changed the dynamic of the team, attracts the attention that has freed up other players,” said HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart. “They have scored goals there is no doubt about that. But as I said, we try to be as detailed as possible and going into the game, controlling the things that we can control.”
The series between the two has been incredibly close over the years, with seven of 14 all-time meetings ending in a draw. Halifax has four wins to York’s three, and has won two of the three matches between the two sides in 2022, including a 1-0 win on the opening day of the season back on April 7 at York Lions Stadium.
Due to suspension, York’s leading goalscorer Osaze De Rosario will miss out on the match. However, Nash said that otherwise, everyone is at least close to returning so he should have a full squad for this match. Hart, on the other hand, will be more limited with a pair of suspensions as well as injuries to Peter Schaale, Aidan Daniels and Mour Samb.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH
Key players suspended for both sides: There will be at least one notable name missing from both team sheets on Friday due to suspension. For York, they will be without Osaze De Rosario, who last week set the record for most goals scored in club history, with his 11th of the year in CPL action (12th in all competitions). However, he also recorded a yellow card in this match which will see him miss this clash, and York’s offensive depth will be tested as a result. Halifax, meanwhile, will be without fullback Zach Fernandez, who leads all Halifax players, and sits fourth in the entire league, with 2010 minutes played this year. As one of the Wanderers’ most consistent and dynamic players, he will certainly be missed for this big clash. Halifax will also be without midfielder Marcello Polisi through suspension, who has proven to be a reliable option for them throughout the season.
Long-term benefits from “big game” experience for young squads: On July 8, the usually upbeat Jordan Wilson of York United sat at the press room table at York Lions Stadium looking defeated. The Nine Stripes had just suffered their ninth straight CPL match without a win, a 2-0 loss to Forge, and he was struggling for answers. All he knew, is that he didn’t want to play out the rest of the season like it was a lost cause “I do not want to go three months playing dud games, games that don’t matter,” the veteran midfielder said at the time, “let’s try to rally together now and have at least a push for playoffs, or playing games that matter”. He will get his wish on Friday, as the do-or-die scenarios for both sides certainly make this an important match. For a young York team, playing in a match like this will only stand to benefit them long-term, as they get the chance to play in a pressure-filled scenario. The same can be said for Halifax, who as the year has gone on has increasingly looked to give its younger players an opportunity. “Experience cannot be taught,” said Hart. “For the young players they are getting an opportunity, and when you get your opportunity you have to make the most of it. You don’t necessarily have to have your best game, but you have to contribute to the team in any way possible and try to get to the result.”
Halifax continues to prove deadly from the penalty spot: Last weekend, for the tenth time this season. HFX Wanderers won a penalty For the tenth time this season, they converted from the spot. The league’s lowest-scoring side has managed just 13 goals from open play this season, far and away the lowest in the league. But led by Sam Salter, who has now scored six penalties, they have been excellent at both drawing fouls in the area and making opponents pay for committing them. For a York squad that has committed the most fouls this season, they will have to be especially disciplined on Friday night to not allow Halifax any easy goals. It is worth mentioning that Halifax has arguably been the most unlucky team in front of goal this season. No team has underperformed their non-penalty expected goals more than Halifax’s 21.43, and they have now hit the woodwork a stunning 10 times this season.
York United wins: 3 || HFX Wanderers wins: 4|| Draws: 7
August 1, 2022 — HFX Wanderers 2-4 York United FC
“They are actually playing different than they have been recently, so we have to prepare for two different eventualities if they play in a back five, or play in a back four. But I think for us, really we are going to approach the game like we have recently and go at teams, try to attack and we have been successful that way.” — York United head coach Martin Nash
“We know the situation, we haven’t really discussed that with the players because they know where we are at. We had challenged them earlier to make the best of the final five or six games and also to raise the level of consistency and performance, both when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. “— HFX Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart