'Caps look for legends vs. Legends

Key players lost to Olympic tilt

Jim Jamieson

An under-staffed Vancouver Whitecaps women's team will have more holes to fill tonight when it faces the visiting Los Angeles Legends.

Already denied access to most members of the senior national team due to Olympic commitments, the Whitecaps will be without three more of those players against the Legends.

Whitecaps centreback Emily Zurrer and forwards Jonelle Foligno and Jodi-Ann Robinson -- all key players in last Saturday's W-League season-opening 2-2 tie with Ventura County -- have joined the Olympic squad for a friendly tonight in Sydney, Australia.

"It's a big challenge because it limits our resources here for another week," says Whitecaps head coach Bob Birarda. "We may have to change to a different shape to adapt to the players who are left to us."

Zurrer, who scored the tying goal near the end of Saturday's game, will be missed, but the Caps have signed Olympic team pool member Randee Hermus and she's expected to suit up against Los Angeles. Hermus, 28, a veteran defender who has 105 senior caps but didn't make the trip Down Under, would replace Zurrer alongside national under-20 player Lexi Marton at central defence.

"Randee Hermus is really a mentor for me," says Marton, 18, a Newmarket, Ont., native who has six senior caps already. "She has so much experience and knows so much about the game, especially as a defender. I've learned so much from her in training with the senior team, so she can only add to our game."

The Whitecaps will look to throw out about five minutes of Saturday's draw -- a game they led 1-0 in the 78th minute, only to give up two gift goals in the 83rd and 88th minute on near-identical miscues between goalkeeper Erin McNulty and her defenders.

Marton says it's a matter of getting to know each other for the group that is largely composed of the national under-20 team.

"As a backline, it's really key to understand each other and anticipate how you play," she says. "But we need to focus for 90 minutes. After we got up that one goal, we maybe relaxed a little bit and thought we had the game in hand."

Birarda says tonight's key is for his young players to cope with the stress of a higher level of competition.

"They don't normally have to pay attention to the detail they need to as they step up in the level of play," he said.

"A yard out of position either way and they get punished. Sure, they understand the detail, but can they do it consistently for 90 minutes without losing their concentration? That's the challenge."

- After tonight's game, the Caps head out for two road games and five of the next six.

TODAY'S GAME

Whitecaps Women vs. Los Angeles Legends

When: 5 p.m.

Where: Swangard Stadium

Whitecaps player to watch: Striker Tiffeny Milbrett missed a gimme in the season opener. Expect last season's scoring leader to find the back of the net today.

Need to know: The Legends, a new W-League team, were 4-0 losers in their opener.

Records: Vancouver 0-0-1, 1 pt; Los Angeles 0-1-0, pt

© The Vancouver Province 2008