John Atkinson, Special to The Sun
VANCOUVER - Tiffeny Milbrett's inspired performance helped the Vancouver Whitecaps move within touching distance of a Western Conference playoff place at a sweltering Swangard Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Milbrett provided the perfect assist for Karla Schacher's 11th-minute opener and then netted twice herself as their American opponents were overpowered by a first-half display of ruthless efficiency.
The Whitecaps should have won by a much larger margin, twice hitting the woodwork in the second period, and their dominance was reflected in the fact that Cayla Deacon's late consolation was the Fort Collins, Colorado, side's first shot on target.
Needing to win their last two games to guarantee a playoff place, the Whitecaps began brightly and a neat piece of trickery from Jodi-Ann Robinson on the left wing almost bore fruit. Fans were soon celebrating, though, after Tiffeny Milbrett broke free inside the penalty box and drilled a low cross to the far post.
Schacher timed her run superbly and showed no mercy in lashing a shot past goalkeeper Emma Bailey.
Milbrett went close to doubling the Whitecaps lead in the 17th minute, before goalkeeper Justine Bernier was called into action for the first time, racing off her line to thwart Julie Williford in a rare foray. But it was only a matter of time before the visiting defence caved in again.
Seven minutes before halftime the inevitable happened when Sally Cole clumsily upended Monica Lam-Feist inside the penalty area and Milbrett made no mistake from the resultant spot-kick, slotting a low shot into the corner.
Fort Collins's misery was essentially complete when goalkeeper Bailey and defender Cole both went for the same ball and missed it, from where a kind ricochet allowed the lurking Milbrett to hook the ball into an empty net for the Whitecaps third.
Within 60 seconds of the restart Milbrett hit the foot of the post and minutes later curled a free-kick inches over the top of the crossbar.
The Colorado side had seemingly wilted in the heat and it was a miracle they didn't concede a fourth just before the hour mark. Lam Feist's smart shot was saved by Bailey, but the rebound fell to substitute Julie Armstrong, whose effort deflected off a defender onto the post and away to safety.
After the Whitecaps took their foot of the gas a little, Fort Collins mounted a spirited late rally and Deacon's curled free-kick from 20 yards in the 86th minute at least gave the visitors something to cheer about.