Vancouver Whitecaps FC women recorded their fourth straight shutout, as they downed the visiting Pali Blues 1-0 at Surrey's Netwon Athletic Park on Friday.
18-year-old rookie and Surrey native Jenna Richardson scored the game's only goal in her home debut, handing Pali their first loss of the season. The victory stretches Whitecaps FC's lead atop the United Soccer Leagues W-League Western Conference standings to four points over Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
Striker Sydney Leroux returned to the starting XI, slotting between quicksilver wingers Jen Stoltenberg and Richardson, in what is undoubtedly the fastest forward trio in team history. Goalkeeper Jaclyn Dunnett, meanwhile, looked to continue her three-match shutout streak.
The home side opened scoring on 19 minutes, as Leroux at the top of area flicked it ahead to Richardson breaking into the Blues box on the right. Though the ball was bouncing awkwardly for the youngster, she neatly clipped it past Pali goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli and into the bottom corner of the net from eight yards out. It was Richardson's third goal in as many matches.
Whitecaps FC thought they had added to the lead in the closing seconds of the half. Stoltenberg cut in from the left and fired it on net, where Tiffany Weimer redirected it past Picarelli from in front. However, Weimer was flagged for offside.
Vancouver were up 1-0 at the break.
Pali had two good chances to start the second half. On 53 minutes, Anisa Guajardo broke in on the right, but her chipped shot went just over the bar. Three minutes later, forward Tiffany McCarty got behind the defence and broke in alone, but Dunnett came out and made the big stop from in close.
At the other end, Whitecaps FC continued to threaten. On the hour mark, Richardson got on the end of a long clearance up the right and broke in on goal, but her centering pass was blocked. Moments later, she won the ball on the right and centered for Weimer, who quickly relayed it to Stoltenberg, but her first-time shot was saved by Picarelli.
On 69 minutes, Leroux touched it to Richardson 15 yards out and she hammered a shot just over the crossbar, while going for the top corner. A minute later from a corner kick, defender Shannon Woeller's low shot was saved.
"The ability of our front three to stretch defences is obviously crucial," said coach Hubert Buby Jr. after Friday's match. "We like to play forward whenever possible and we have players who can get behind defences and be dangerous."
Pali had one final good chance. On 72 minutes, McCarty's shot in a scramble was blocked by defender Lexi Marton.
Whitecaps FC claimed a well-earned 1-0 victory against the former two-time W-League champions. Dunnett made just one save against nine shots to extend her shutout streak to four matches, as she has yet to surrender a goal this season.
"Every time we play Pali, it's a hard-fought battle," Busby told whitecapsfc.com, adding, "I'm very proud of the ladies this evening."
The victory raises Vancouver's record to 7W-1L-2D, as Whitecaps FC now sit four point up on Santa Clarita in the W-League Western Conference standings. The Blue Heat hold three games in hand, however, with a record of 6W-0L-1D. Pali fall to 5W-1L-3D.
Whitecaps FC now head down the I-5 to Tukwila, Washington, to face Seattle Sounders women on Wednesday night in an 8 p.m. PT kickoff at the Starfire Sports Complex. The 'Caps then return home for a Canada Day doubleheader at Richmond's Minoru Park. On Friday, July 1, at 4 p.m. PT, Whitecaps FC Residency host Victoria Highlanders FC in USL Premier Development League action, then at 7 p.m. PT, the women take the field, as Whitecaps FC and Victoria Highlanders FC meet in an all-British Columbia W-League derby clash. The game is part of the Whitecaps Women's Soccer Series presented by Kia - in partnership with the Girls Metro Soccer League - and is hosted by the Richmond Girls Soccer Association. Tickets for all home games are available online for just $12 at www.whitecapsfc.com/wtickets.
19' - VAN - Jenna Richardson (Sydney Leroux)
Shots: Vancouver 13 - Pali 9
Saves: Vancouver 1 - Pali 2
Fouls: Vancouver 15 - Pali 11
Corners: Vancouver 6 - Pali 1
Offsides: Vancouver 4 - Pali 1
14' - VAN - Tiffany Weimer
37' - PAL - Christie Shaner
91'+ - VAN - 14.Keshia Wallin
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
35.Jaclyn Dunnett; 14.Keshia Wallin, 4.Lexi Marton, 3.Shannon Woeller, 15.Krista Kruse; 7.Tina Romagnuolo, 22.Kelsey Hood, 8.Tiffany Weimer (18.Monica Lam-Feist 82'); 20.Jen Stoltenberg (17.Carrie Patterson 69'), 9.Sydney Leroux, 21.Jenna Richardson (32.Nicole Setterlund 90')
Subs not used: 29.Kristen Funk, 6.Amy Vermeulen, 11.Alysha Bonnick, 25.Ciara McCormack
1.Anna Maria Picarelli; 13.Sasha Andrews, 18.Christie Shaner, 16.Cortni Joyner, 2.Rachel Quon; 4.Mariah Nogueira, 5.Shawna Gordon, 17.Danielle Hubka (10.Jessica Price 65'); 11.Tiffany McCarty, 7.Anisa Guajardo, 6.Elizabeth Eddy
Subs not used: 9.Jamia Fields, 12.Kiley Williams, 14.Irina Maximova, 23.Molly Kruger