By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Canada's quest for gold in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament is being strongly influenced by members of the Vancouver Whitecaps women's team.
12 of the 18 players in Even Pellerud's squad have appeared for the Whitecaps at some stage in their careers, with the club also providing input in the Canadian team staff. Whitecaps head coach Bob Birarda serves as one of Pellerud's coaching assistants, while Vancouver assistant coach Marc Rizzardo is one of the team's physiotherapists.
With Canada one result away from securing a quarter-final berth in China, we look at some of the Whitecaps players who are involved in the country's Olympic campaign.
Leading the line for Canada is one of women's soccer's most prolific goalscorers in Christine Sinclair. Though she did not find the scoresheet in their Olympic debut win over Argentina last Wednesday, captain Sinclair scored her 94th international goal in a 1-1 draw with hosts China on Saturday.
Despite an already distinguished career as a Canadian international, Sinclair has also enjoyed great success as a Whitecaps player. In 2006, she helped the club to their second USL W-League championship title in three seasons, and was also named championship tournament Most Valuable Player. That season, Sinclair's efforts also earned the striker a place in both the W-League All-League and All-Western Conference Teams. The striker even made a cameo appearance this season against arch-rivals Seattle Sounders on June 7. Her two goals helped the Whitecaps to a 3-1 victory at Swangard Stadium, with Sinclair currently sixth among the club's all-time points leaders.
Sinclair's goal against China was supplied by another Whitecaps favourite in Kara Lang. The Oakville, Ontario, native has performed well in Beijing to this stage, having scored a fine winning goal against Argentina last week. The UCLA Bruins star has not only influenced Canada at the international level, she also played an important role for the Whitecaps in 2004 when they won their first-ever W-League championship title. Though Lang scored just 13 goals in 28 appearances for the club, she sits eighth among Vancouver's all-time points leaders.
Canada's last line of defence, meanwhile, is a player that has a distinguished undefeated record as a Whitecaps goalkeeper. Erin McLeod registered 27 wins and five draws in her 32 appearances for Vancouver, with the Edmonton, Alberta, native earning 18 clean sheets in the process. She was also a major part of the Whitecaps W-League championship sides of 2004 and 2006. In fact, she clinched Vancouver's first-ever title when she struck the deciding penalty kick in the 2004 final, as the Whitecaps defeated New Jersey Wildcats 4-2 on penalties in Ottawa, Ontario. McLeod was also named to the All-W-League Western Conference Team in 2004 and 2006.
Follow the fortunes of Lang, McLeod, and Sinclair in Beijing, as Canada continue their pursuit of a gold medal in their inaugural appearance at the Olympic Games. Click here for our Beijing 2008 page.