Vancouver Whitecaps FC women will close out their 2011 season on Sunday, as they play Seattle Sounders women in the United Soccer Leagues W-League Championship third-place match. The game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. PT at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington, and is followed at 4 p.m. PT by the W-League Championship Final between Ottawa Fury and Atlanta Silverbacks.
This will be Vancouver's third appearance in the W-League's bronze-medal contest, with the 'Caps winning the previous two. In 2002 at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium, Vancouver defeated Denver Lady Cougars 2-0. In 2005 in New Jersey, the 'Caps were 3-1 winners over Central Florida Krush.
Home advantage favours Seattle, however, as home sides have won three of the four W-League third-place matches.
Defender Lexi Marton is available for this match after sitting out a one-game suspension in Friday's 3-1 loss to Atlanta. Her presence will be welcome, as the 'Caps will no doubt be looking to tighten things up at the back after conceding eleven goals in their last four matches.
Coach Hubert Busby Jr. may opt to bring in fresh legs for this contest, which could mean some changes to the starting line-up.
If veteran defender Martina Franko sees action in this match, then she will become the team's all-time leader in games played with 70. She is currently tied with Andrea Neil on career appearances, though Neil still leads Franko in starts, minutes played, and assists. Franko is also looking to claim top spot in the team's all-time scoring chart. She currently shares the lead with Amber Allen on 91 points.
Seattle salvaged some pride in Friday's semifinal, as they battled back from 3-0 down against Ottawa, scoring two late goals to make it a 3-2 final. The Sounders women will be looking to end their season in style in front of their home fans on Sunday against Interstate 5 rivals Vancouver.
United States U-23 international forward Sophie Reiser leads Seattle in scoring with seven goals. She also leads the team in shots and fouls and is third in minutes played. Coach Leighton O'Brien also has a number of talented youngsters to call upon up front, including Justina MacDowell, Megan Miller, and Jocelyn Charette.
The key midfielder is veteran former USA international Justi Baumgardt, who scored one of Seattle's goals against Ottawa. Goalkeeper Liz Ruiz, meanwhile, has played all, but 45 minutes this season for the Sounders.
This will be the 38th meeting between Vancouver and Seattle. The 'Caps lead the all-time series 23W-6L-8D, and are 10W-3L-4D on the road. Their last encounter at Starfire, back on June 29, finished 1-1.