On Friday afternoon, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC women's squad (9W-2L-4D) take on Atlanta Silverbacks (11W-1L-0D) in the United Soccer Leagues W-League semifinals, for a chance to play in Sunday's Championship Final. The match kicks off at 4 p.m. PT at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington. Friday's other semifinal has tournament hosts Seattle Sounders women (5W-5L-4D) facing top seed Ottawa Fury (14W-0L-0D).
W-LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP ‘FINAL FOUR’
This is Vancouver's seventh trip to the W-League Championship semifinals in 11 seasons, the most of any team in league history since the format was introduced in 1998. Ottawa Fury are second in "Final Four" appearances, with this year being their sixth appearance. The 'Caps have an all-time record of 7W-3L-2D in the W-League Championship tournament (the two draws resulted in penalty kick shootouts, in which Whitecaps FC have a win and a loss).
This is the third appearance for Atlanta Silverbacks since joining the league in 2005. Last year in Santa Clarita, they lost 3-1 to eventual champions Buffalo Flash in the semifinals, then lost 3-0 in the third-place match to Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues. In 2007, they reached the final before losing to Washington Freedom 3-1.
Vancouver earned their place in the W-League Championship thanks to a wild 4-3 win in the Western Conference playoff final away to Santa Clarita Blue Heat. Recently signed returning veterans Martina Franko and Kaylyn Kyle both scored for Whitecaps FC, as did sniper Sydney Leroux, while 19-year-old rookie Jenna Richardson netted the late winner.
Unfortunately, defender Lexi Marton was sent off in the match in Santa Clarita, after receiving two yellow cards, and will have to sit out Friday's semi - though she will be available on Sunday. Consequently, captain Kelsey Hood could get moved back to defence for this match. Normally a midfielder, Hood has seen time this year at centre back, and in fact, made this year's W-League All-Western Conference Team as a defender.
Also on the All-Western Conference Team are midfielder Tiffany Weimer and forward Leroux. In addition, Weimer was named to the All-League Team, while Leroux is a finalist for W-League Rookie of the Year award. Leroux finished tied for second in the league in both points and goals, while Weimer finished sixth overall in points. Leroux's 12 goals in 12 games in all competitions this season is the best scoring total by a Vancouver player since the championship season of 2006 when Christine Sinclair scored 12 goals in 10 games.
Also up for silverware this week is head coach Hubert Busby Jr., who is nominated for W-League Coach of the Year. Busby won the award last season and is looking to take the 'Caps back to the Championship Final for a second straight time.
In their six previous W-League semifinals, the 'Caps have advanced to the Final on four occasions, officially posting a record of 4W-1L-1D (the one draw saw them then lose on penalty kicks to Charlotte Lady Eagles in 2002).
In last year's semifinal in Santa Clarita, Whitecaps FC defeated Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues 3-1 before losing to Buffalo Flash 3-1 in the Final.
Atlanta finished as the top team out of 12 in the Eastern Conference, losing only once. They then won the conference playoff title by defeating New Jersey Wildcats 3-2 before downing rivals Charlotte Lady Eagles 1-0 in the Eastern Final.
The Silverbacks are led by midfielder Megan Tomlinson, who received All-League honours, while scoring seven goals and one assists in just nine games. Also on the All-Eastern Conference Team is speedy forward Tiffini Turpin, who has six goals and three assists in 12 games, as well as Ashley Baker, who finished second among W-League goalkeepers in the regular season with a 0.590 goals-against average. Another player to watch is 17-year-old midfielder Alexa Newfield, who has been among the team's leading scorers each of the past three seasons.
These two teams have never met. They both reached the W-League Championship last season in Santa Clarita, but did not play each other.
The W-League Championship ‘Final Four’ in Tukwila, Washington begins this Friday, July 29, as the Whitecaps FC women face Atlanta Silverbacks in the W-League semifinals. Should Whitecaps FC win on Friday, they will face the winner of the other semifinal between the host Seattle Sounders women and the undefeated Ottawa Fury in the W-League Championship Final on Sunday, July 31, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. PT. Sunday’s Championship Final will be shown on tape-delay on Fox Sports World Canada on Monday, August 1. Stay tuned for all the latest news on whitecapsfc.com or follow at facebook.com/whitecapsfc or twitter.com/whitecapsfc.
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