After opening up their three-game road trip with a hard fought 1-1 draw against Pali Blues, the undefeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC women (3W-0L-1D) visit expansion side Los Angeles Strikers before closing out the trip on Sunday against the much-improved Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
Head coach Hubert Busby Jr. now has plenty of options to choose from for this trip. Defensively, the team has been very solid, with goalkeeper Kristen Funk recording three straight shutouts. Fullback Erica Campanelli is the latest player to join the back four and put in a good performance in her debut during last Friday’s 3-0 home win over Colorado Rush.
Speedy winger Jen Stoltenberg should be at home in the California climate, having grown up just south of Los Angeles in Mission Viejo. Stoltenberg has been on a mission lately, terrorizing defenders as one of the team's most effective attackers.
Another player who knows Los Angeles well is striker Sydney Leroux, who is a star performer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Vancouver's main threat though has so far been midfielder Tiffany Weimer. The skilled forward shares the league lead in scoring with four goals.
After producing some good results early on, the expansion LA Strikers now look to be a team in some turmoil. Just ten days into their season, the Strikers fired head coach Reggie Rivas, despite having a 2W-2L-0D record. His exit came after losing 4-1 at Colorado Rush. That was followed up by losing 7-2 to Santa Clarita, in what was certainly not the best of starts for new head coach Demian Brown, who also heads the California State University, Fullerton, women's team.
Up front, the Strikers are led by a pair of Republic of Ireland international strikers in Cherelle Khassal and Julie-Ann Russell. Khassal leads the team with two goals and an assist, and was last week's W-League Player of the Week.
A local connection on the squad is Vancouver native Katie Tarrant. Both she and Khassal played last season for Santa Clarita.
Friday's match be the first-ever meeting between the Strikers and Whitecaps FC.
Last season was Santa Clarita's first in W-League play, and they struggled to find their way, finishing with a record of 2W-6L-2D and scoring only six goals all season. However, this year is a very different story, and after putting seven goals past LA Strikers this past Sunday, scoring does not look to be much of a concern. At 2W-0L-1D, the Blue Heat are looking to apply some heat to the Blue and White in the race for top spot in the W-League Western Conference.
Under new head coach Fabian Sandoval, the team has been almost completely rebuilt. Key players include Portuguese national team captain Edite Fernandes in midfield and a number of dangerous attackers, including two-time Big South Conference Player of the Year Marky Boyce out of Charleston Southern University, and California State University, Los Angeles, stars Ann Marie Tangorra and Liz Franco.
Last season, Whitecaps FC swept Santa Clarita, winning 4-0 on the road and 2-0 at home in Richmond, BC.
Following their three-game California road trip, the Whitecaps FC women's squad return home to play expansion side LA Strikers on Friday, June 10, at Surrey's Newton Athletic Park as part of the Whitecaps Women's Soccer Series presented by Kia - in partnership with the Girls Metro Soccer League. The match is being hosted by Surrey FC Pegasus, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. PT.
Individual match tickets are available for the affordable price of $12 online at whitecapsfc.com/wtickets. Groups and teams can receive special ticket pricing and benefits by contacting Hugh Hamilton at 778-330-1360 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets will also be available at the gate.