Vancouver Whitecaps FC women saw their bid for a third United Soccer Leagues W-League championship come to an end, as they lost 3-1 to Atlanta Silverbacks in the league semifinals in Tukwila, Washington, on Friday afternoon. The Eastern Conference champions scored twice in the second half to advance to Sunday's final. The 'Caps will play in the third-place match, also on Sunday.
With star defender Lexi Marton serving a one-match suspension, captain Kelsey Hood dropped back to central defence. Coach Hubert Busby Jr., meanwhile, pulled Sydney Leroux back to central midfield, with Tiffany Weimer starting up front. The two would interchange positions though, throughout the match.
Whitecaps FC started well and enjoyed the balance of possession in the first half. Just four minutes in, Jen Stoltenberg set up Weimer in the box, but her 15-yard shot was saved.
Atlanta opened scoring on 16 minutes, as a long free kick from Jamie Pollock found the head of Megan Tomlinson, who flicked it into the empty net, with Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jaclyn Dunnett left stranded.
Vancouver replied just two minutes later, as Tina Romagnuolo played a short pass to Weimer at the edge of the Atlanta box and she fired a good shot into the top-left corner past Silverbacks goalkeeper Ashley Baker. It was Weimer's eighth goal of the season.
The 'Caps thought they had taken the lead on 24 minutes, as Stoltenberg on the right cut it back for Weimer to tap in, but the play was mysteriously flagged for offside.
At the other end, Tomlinson took a swipe at a loose ball in front on 40 minutes, but was stopped in close by Dunnett.
It was 1-1 at halftime.
Atlanta came close on 53 minutes, as Tomlinson on a quick counter-attack avoided the offside, and broke in behind the Vancouver defence. She shot the bouncing ball over the bar, however.
A minute later, Atlanta found the winning goal. Tiffini Turpin on the left edge of the box crossed for Tomlinson, who again flicked it home on a header, with Dunnett unable to get there in time.
Some slick passing by Whitecaps FC on 68 minutes had the crowd buzzing, as the ball was played to substitute Amy Vermeulen to the left of goal, but her hard shot was right at Baker.
The Silverbacks netted the insurance goal on 73 minutes, as Jamie Pollock got the ball from a throw-in on the right, cut in, and fired a hard shot inside the near post from 18 yards.
Vancouver pushed forward looking to get back in the match, but could not find a way through the Atlanta defence. With a quarter of an hour remaining, Stoltenberg made a good run down the right and fired the ball across the face of goal, but no 'Caps player could get a touch on it. A minute later, Weimer blasted a 28-yarder that Baker did well to stop.
Vancouver fired several more shots from range that Baker was equal to. The best came in time added on, with a swerving 25-yard rocket from Leroux which Baker was barely able to parry. The ball spun dangerously back across the goalmouth, but stayed out.
"Soccer is a game of chances, and credit Atlanta, they took their chances, while we made critical errors at critical times, and that cost us the match," Busby also told whitecapsfc.com. "We fell short at the semifinals today, but credit to our players - we had a good season."
Whitecaps FC will now play Seattle Sounders women in Sunday's third-place match, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday afternoon at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle fell 3-2 to Ottawa Fury in Friday's other semifinal match-up.
16' - ATL - Megan Tomlinson (Jamie Pollock)
18' - VAN - Tiffany Weimer (Tina Romagnuolo)
54' - ATL - Megan Tomlinson (Tiffini Turpin)
73' - ATL - Jamie Pollock
Shots: Vancouver 15 - Atlanta 7
Saves: Vancouver 0 - Atlanta 6
Fouls: Vancouver 10 - Atlanta 6
Corners: Vancouver 5 - Atlanta 1
Offsides: Vancouver 3 - Atlanta 2
41' - VAN - Kaylyn Kyle
42' - ATL - Alexa Newfield
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
35.Jaclyn Dunnett; 14.Keshia Wallin, 19.Martina Franko, 22.Kelsey Hood, 15.Krista Kruse (21.Jenna Richardson 77'); 7.Tina Romagnuolo, 9.Sydney Leroux, 88.Kaylyn Kyle; 20.Jen Stoltenberg, 8.Tiffany Weimer, 17.Carrie Patterson (6.Amy Vermeulen 56')
Subs not used: 29.Kristen Funk, 10.Tseng Shu-O, 11.Alysha Bonnick
1.Ashley Baker; 14.Ronda Brooks, 21.Leilani Huntley, 3.Stacey Balaam, 19.Bailey Powell; 2.Rebecca Nolin, 5.Jamie Pollock, 8.Alexa Newfield (15.Bridget Gaughan 83'); 11.Tiffini Turpin (29.Nkese Udoh 77'), 12.Susannah Dennis (23.Sarah Bennett 55'), 7.Megan Tomlinson (9.Kirsten Ebert 87')
Subs not used: 13.Micaela Crowley