Vancouver Whitecaps FC women host the undefeated Pali Blues on Friday night at Surrey's Newton Athletic Park, in a match that could well decide which of these teams makes the playoffs. Both these sides are two-time United Soccer Leagues W-League champions, accounting for four of the past seven league titles since 2004. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.
While the 'Caps currently sit top of the W-League Western Conference standings with a record of 6W-1L-2D, both Pali (4W-0L-3D) and Santa Clarita Blue Heat (6W-0L-1D) have games in hand and fewer points dropped. Only two playoff spots are up for grabs, so anything less than a Vancouver win on Friday, and Whitecaps FC will need help in order to qualify for the postseason.
Vancouver's defence could be key in this match, as the 'Caps and goalkeeper Jaclyn Dunnett have kept three straight clean sheets. The Blue and White have also yet to concede a goal at home this season.
At the other end, midfielder Tiffany Weimer will be trying to add to her league-leading total of seven goals. As well, explosive 18-year-old forward Jenna Richardson will look to make her home debut in her hometown of Surrey, BC. The young rookie scored both of the Whitecaps FC goals in the team's recent two-match Colorado road trip, having earned a spot in the W-League Team of the Week, as a result.
This will be the second of three matches for Pali in a vital Pacific Northwest road swing. On Wednesday, they are in Victoria to take on winless Highlanders FC, then on Sunday, they head to Seattle for a date with the Sounders women.
Two new additions this season pace the Blues attack. Speedy former Mexican U-20 international Anisa Guajardo leads the team with three goals and three assists, while recent United States U-20 international forward Tiffany McCarty also has three tallies, plus one helper.
A familiar face on defence is veteran Canadian Sasha Andrews, who played 41 games for Whitecaps FC from 2003 to 2006. She has played every minute for Pali this season, as have fellow defenders Elizabeth Eddy and Christie Shaner. Backstopping the Blues between the posts, meanwhile, is Italian international goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli.
In their previous encounter this season in Pacific Palisades, California, on June 1, Vancouver recorded a 1-1 draw. Guajardo opened scoring for the home side late in the first half before Whitecaps FC midfielder Tina Romagnuolo equalized from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour remaining.
The all-time series between Whitecaps FC and Pali Blues is even at 3W-3L-2D. The 'Caps have the edge at home at 2W-1L-1D.
NEWTON ATHLETIC PARK
Vancouver's only previous match at Surrey's Newton Athletic Park was a 1-0 win over Los Angeles Strikers on June 10. This will be the second straight home match for Vancouver at Newton Athletic Park, the first time since 2009 that the 'Caps have played two consecutive home matches at the same venue.
The artificial turf pitch and grandstand is a new addition to the Newton Athletic Park facility, and opened last fall. It is the home soccer field for neighboring Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
RICHARDSON NAMED TO W-LEAGUE TEAM OF THE WEEK
United Soccer Leagues announced on Wednesday that Whitecaps FC striker Jenna Richardson has been named to the W-League Team of the Week. Richardson scored two goals in her W-League debut this past Friday as Whitecaps FC defeated Colorado Force 2-0.
Friday's match is part of the Whitecaps Women's Soccer Series presented by Kia - in partnership with the Girls Metro Soccer League - and is being hosted by Surrey FC Pegasus. Tickets for all home games are available online for just $12 at www.whitecapsfc.com/wtickets.