Ex-Lambkins star Pfankuch scores twice as Colorado routs Vancouver
BY KELLY LYELL
LOVELAND - Emmalie Pfankuch has been following the Colorado Force women's soccer team since its formation 13 years ago.
Friday night, before 856 fans at Loveland Sports Park, the Fort Collins High School graduate did everything she could to get the Force into the playoffs, scoring two goals to lead Colorado to its first W-League win ever over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Nikki Marshall also scored a goal in a 3-0 win that moved the Force (4-2-6, 18 points) into second place in the Western Conference in its regular-season finale. The Seattle Sounders (3-2-7, 15 points) were tied with Colorado earlier in the day but dropped a 2-0 decision at Los Angeles. Seattle closes out its season tonight at first-place Pali (8-0-3, 27 points) and holds a tiebreaker edge over the Force based on its 1-0-1 record against Colorado this season.
"I've followed this team since I was ... well since it started," Pfankuch said. "To get to the playoffs or have a chance at the playoffs is incredible. We have such an amazing team put together."
The Force finally is showing it at the end of the season. The win was the third in a row for a team that went 1-0-6 during a seven-game stretch that dominated the season.
Vancouver, 15-0-2 all-time vs. the Force entering the game, was outshot 5-1 in the first half while falling behind 2-0. Colorado finished with an 8-5 edge in shots, with Marshall taking four shots and Pfankuch three.
"We knew in the beginning we had to win this game in order to make the playoffs," Marshall said. "I think we're just sick of ties, honestly. We haven't gotten the results all season, and we've played well, and we got the result (Friday), so I think that was huge for us."
Marshall, who plays for the University of Nebraska, charged past one Vancouver defender near midfield, then got by Randee Hemus a few yards later with a nifty move, giving the Force forward 40 yards of open field between herself and Whitecaps goalkeeper Sian Bagshawe. Marshall's shot bounced off the inside of the left goalpost and right back to her, allowing her to easily knock the rebound in for a 1-0 Colorado lead in the 18th minute.
Pfankuch made it 2-0 five minutes later, taking a pass from midfielder Sara Campbell and knocking it in from a few yards out with some nifty footwork. Her second goal, in the 75th minute, came on a header off a nice crossing pass from Monica Dolinsky that bounced once before Pfankuch knocked it past Bagshawe to all but seal the victory.
"She's played three games for us and scored five goals, that's how deadly she is," Force coach Craig Deacon said of Pfankuch, who won an NCAA championship this past season as a freshman at North Carolina and is playing in a national championship tournament next week with her Denver-based under-19 Rush Nike club team. "She's a dynamite player."
Vancouver was missing four starters who were called up to play for the Canadian national team and had two others who rejoined the team Friday after spending 10 days at a training camp for Canada's Under-20 national team. Still, Whitecaps coach Alan Koch said, his team could have and should have played far better than it did.
"They really deserved the victory (Friday night)," Koch said of the Force. "They were, by far, the better team. They showed up to play, and we didn't."
Maria Del Guerico earned the shutout in the Force goal by making three saves, one more than her Vancouver counterpart had.
"If we make the playoffs, fantastic," Deacon said. "The girls will be over the moon. If we don't, we know we finished on a high. We come away the last three games of the season with three wins. It's been about development, and the players have developed. They've gotten better, and we've had a great time."