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Island Games Recap & Highlights: Mo Babouli game-winner helps Forge, HFX reach CanPL Final

And then there were two. Benedict Rhodes recaps an epic second-to-last matchday at the Island Games as the two finalists emerge.

Marco Bustos heads home Pacific FC’s second goal on Tuesday night
Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography

And then there were two.

Four clubs were cut down to a final two on Tuesday, as HFX Wanderers and Forge FC sealed their spots in the Canadian Premier League’s season finale.

Forge will be looking to repeat as champions, while HFX are in the final for the first time, after finishing in last place in 2019. They only kept a handful of players from the inaugural 2019 season, but have got it right in 2020, and will now have a shot at the new-look North Star Shield.

The early game on Tuesday was a rematch of the 2019 CPL Finals, with Cavalry FC and Forge FC squaring off for the last time this season.

It was win-and-your-in for both teams. If Cavalry lost or drew, they were out, but if they won they were into their second consecutive final. If Forge lost, they could’ve still made it with a Pacific FC win in the later game, but a solid performance in this match ensured that they took care of it themselves.

Cavalry started the match with a chip on their shoulder. Many of their (healthy) attacking threats found an extra gear in the opening stages of the game, but couldn’t find the elusive goal.

Despite Cavalry’s best efforts on both sides of the ball, Forge would take the lead in the 27th minute. After Kwame Awuah kept the ball in play (or did he?) on the left wing, Kyle Bekker put Mo Babouli in on goal a with a brilliant pass. Babouli took a few touches and chipped the ball over Marco Carducci and off the bottom of the crossbar.

The goal would end up being the winning goal, knocking Cavalry out of The Island Games, and preventing them from reaching their second final. Forge are into their second final, however, and with the win, secured a spot in the final for HFX Wanderers as well.

For Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Cavalry, it’s back to the drawing board. They were hit hard by injuries, and not having a couple of players get into Canada, and leave PEI without redemption for their defeat in the 2019 final. They'll be even hungrier in 2021.

Full highlights of Cavalry FC vs Forge FC:

With their spot in the final already confirmed hours earlier, HFX Head Coach Stephen Hart decided to heavily rotate his squad, with Andre Rampersad, Akeem Garcia and Peter Schaale among a long list of HFX starters who began this match on the bench.

Pacific, meanwhile, fielded a very good team, and came flying out of the gates.

Terran Campbell opened the scoring for The Tridents in the 8th minute with a brilliant diving header. It was his first of the tournament after a breakout 2019 season.

The pass from Marco Bustos was impressive as well, the first contribution in a huge game for the MVP candidate.

Bustos would double the lead for Pacific, finding the back of the net with a header of his own in the 29th minute.

With the first half winding down, and the score 2-0, Pacific exploded for a pair of late goals.

First up, Alejandro Díaz, after receiving a pass from Bustos, made it 3-0 with a tidy finish from close range in the 44th minute

Not wanting to be outdone, Bustos found the back of the net again in stoppage time, playing a lengthy pass up the pitch before catching up to the play and knocking the ball home.

The goal set a new Pacific FC record for most goals in a match with their fourth, a number which would increase in the second half.

They would find the back of the net for the fifth and final time in the 80th minute, as Victor Blasco put the icing on the cake.

It was a big win for Pacific, but ultimately didn't have any effect on the standings or who plays in the final on Saturday. HFX will be pleased they could give some of their stars a bit of a rest, but need to bounce back quickly ahead of Saturday.

Full highlights of HFX Wanderers vs Pacific FC:

What's next?

The final! The Island Games come to an end on Saturday, September 19th, at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

You can watch Forge FC try to retain the North Star Shield against HFX Wanderers on OneSoccer, or on CBC.

Canadian Premier League / Chant Photography