By Daniel Clubbe.
This year’s Canadian Premier League, reformatted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, will come to its conclusion on Saturday with the final between 2019 winners Forge FC and the impressive HFX Wanderers.
With the league in limbo for months, it was finally decided that all eight teams would travel to Prince Edward Island and compete in a group stage before a short finals process, leading to this showpiece event.
Credit to each and every individual involved, the Island Games have been a major success, with the health and safety of participants paramount throughout and the league confirming they had a 100% negative result rate from their weekly COVID-19 tests.
An update on COVID-19 testing from the CPL:#CanPL pic.twitter.com/Usz9c4duJ1
— CanPL (@CPLsoccer) September 17, 2020
Not only a success off the field, all eight teams also provided high-quality entertainment on the pitch, with a number of young players emerging into the public eye, albeit with no fans in attendance to watch in person.
Forge FC v HFX Wanderers: Match Preview
Forge are looking to become back-to-back Canadian Premier League champions having won the inaugural season in 2019, beating Cavalry FC in the final. HFX, meanwhile, appear in their first final having finished bottom of the fall standings last term.
The pair have already met twice this summer with both matches ending 1-1, leading to the conclusion that Saturday’s final will be a closely fought contest.
The Ontario side, managed by Bobby Smyrnioritis, perhaps come into the clash in the better form, having not lost in five matches. While a much-changed Wanderers team were well beaten 5-0 in the last game of the group stages by an already-eliminated Pacific FC.
That heavy defeat should have little to no bearing on the final, however. Stephen Hart’s HFX side have perhaps been the most exciting team in the competition and are well worth their shot at silverware.
The Nova Scotians will undoubtedly be looking towards the competition’s top scorer and their talisman, Akeem Garcia, to lead the way on Saturday. Garcia, a Trinidad & Tobago international, has been in dazzling form throughout the Island Games and tops the goal charts with six strikes.
Garcia sits just two goals above his teammate, Brazilian forward Joao Morelli, a sign of the attacking football played by Hart’s men.
For Forge, their defence is at the heart of everything they do well, solidity from the likes of David Edgar and Dan Krutzen make them very difficult to beat.
In an attacking sense, new signing Paolo Sabak from Belgian club, NEC, has impressed in his first season in Canada — the 21-year-old has two goals and two assists in his 10 appearances.
Regardless of the winner, Saturday’s match promises to be a classic encounter of two football teams with two very different styles. Whoever comes out on top, everybody can be proud of their involvement with the hugely successful Island Games tournament.
Forge FC v HFX Wanderers: 7.00 PM BST. University of Prince Edward Stadium, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Fans can tune into Saturday’s action live via the OneSoccer app. For more information, head to this link.