It's fitting on Canada Day that it should be an all-Canadian affair, as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC women’s team host Victoria Highlanders FC on Friday night at Richmond’s Minoru Park. This historic match is also the first time ever that Whitecaps FC have hosted a British Columbia derby match in United Soccer Leagues W-League play.
Vancouver have had a strong season so far, as they currently lead the entire W-League with 24 points. Head coach Hubert Busby Jr. has assembled a well-rounded squad that is both organized defensively and dynamic on the attack. Led by a backline of Krista Kruse, Lexi Marton, Keshia Wallin, and Shannon Woeller, the ‘Caps have yet to allow a goal in four home matches and will look to continue that form against Victoria. Offensively, the team has relied on consistent scoring from Tiffany Weimer, Sydney Leroux, and Jenna Richardson.
Last Friday, the 'Caps beat Pali Blues 1-0 at Surrey's Newton Athletic Park. This upcoming match will be the team's second in three days. On Wednesday night, the ‘Caps were held to a 1-1 draw by Seattle Sounders women, with Richardson netting her fourth goal in her first four career W-League matches.
It's been a rough first season in the W-League for Highlanders FC, who are still searching for their first win. They earned a 0-0 draw with Seattle in their season opener, but have since lost nine straight, including a 2-0 home defeat to Vancouver on two goals by Weimer. Last season, Highlanders FC played in the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL), where they finished in second place behind Whitecaps FC Prospects.
Victoria have been competitive in most of their matches, however, losing by just one goal on five occasions. This includes their two most recent outings, where they fell 3-2 at home to both Pali Blues and Los Angeles Strikers, with the Strikers scoring their match winner in the dying seconds.
Victoria are led by head coach Dave Dew, who coached Whitecaps FC's first three W-League seasons (2001 to 2003) with an overall record of 36W-4L-4D.
The team's star player is striker Liz Hansen, who was top scorer of the PCSL in 2008 and 2010, and has four of Victoria's seven goals this season. Also up front is former University of Victoria star Kendra Flock, who was on the Whitecaps FC roster last season. Another former Whitecaps FC player is W-League veteran Amelie Mercier in midfield. In goal, Whitecaps FC Prospects graduate Gurveen Clair has won the starting spot.
Whitecaps FC faced Victoria in their first match this season, defeating Highlanders FC 2-0 on May 15 at Bear Mountain Stadium on Vancouver Island. This will be the first time the Whitecaps FC women have hosted a Canadian team since the 2006 W-League championship final, when Vancouver defeated Ottawa Fury 3-0 at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium. The 'Caps have a perfect 6W-0L-0D record against fellow Canadian sides, outscoring them 18-2 in the process.
Friday's match is part of a Canada Day doubleheader at Richmond's Minoru Park. First, 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 Friday's doubleheader are available online for just $12 at www.whitecapsfc.com/wtickets.