Neil's No. 5 to be retired by Caps - Vancouver Sun

Ian Walker

Whitecaps will honour record-setting midfielder

Andrea Neil was the face of the Vancouver Whitecaps women's team for a lot of years. It's only fitting the W-League side is ensuring her name will live on for many more.

The Whitecaps will retire the longtime midfielder's No. 5 following tonight's game against the Seattle Sounders at Swangard Stadium.

Neil will be the first Whitecap woman to be so honoured.

"It is very unexpected and very overwhelming," said Neil, before joining a group of former teammates at a local restaurant to celebrate the occasion Friday night. "I knew the team wanted to do something, but I expected to show up on the track and wave to the fans and go back to my seat. When I found out from a family member the other day what they had planned ... it was an incredible emotional experience."

The Vancouver native retired from competitive soccer on Dec. 4, 2007 as the all-time leader in games played for both her country and her club. Neil captained Vancouver to a pair of league championships in 2004 and 2006.

Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the decision was a no-brainer.

"It's a rare occurrence in soccer for sure," he said. "The term I used is she is a pioneer. Normally, when it's suggested someone is a pioneer, it means it wasn't an easy road to master and they paved the way for others and that's what Andrea's done. She certainly left the game in better shape than when she began."

Neil was the captain of the women's side for the first six years of the club's existence. She is the Whitecaps' all-time leader in assists (22), third in points (70), and tied for third in goals (24).

© The Vancouver Sun 2008