On a sunny afternoon out at South Surrey Athletic Park, Vancouver Whitecaps FC women gained valuable experience and a boost of momentum as they valiantly played the Canadian women’s national team to a 1-1 draw in front of approximately 500 enthusiastic spectators, with the match hosted by South Fraser Soccer Club.
“We have so much respect for the national team and these incredible players,” said Jesse Symons, Whitecaps FC women’s head coach. “Today we showed that we have the ability to compete with anyone.”
In order to maximize preparations for both teams, the match was played in three periods instead of two halves. The first period was 40 minutes long, while the last two periods were each 25 minutes long.
The first 40-minute period was well contested, as neither team wanted to give an inch. The best chance for Canada came off the boot of Coquitlam product and current Whitecaps FC player Brittany Timko on 38 minutes. Canadian captain and 'Caps alum Christine Sinclair put a through ball to Kaylyn Kyle - another current Whitecaps FC player - who chested the ball down past 'Caps defender Ali Fenter and fed Timko for a strike. However, goalkeeper Gurveen Clair came off her line and robbed Timko of what looked like a sure goal.
The 25-minute second period started off with a bang for Canada as Kyle let a cracker go just outside the six-yard box on two minutes. However, ‘Caps goalkeeper Alyssa Williamson - who had subbed in for the second period - made a diving save before the ball was cleared to safety. Canadian striker Melissa Tancredi - again a Whitecaps FC alum - had a glorious chance to break the deadlock at 16 minutes, but she sailed her shot over the bar.
“We played well today but we have to be more clinical with our finish around the net,” said John Herdman, Canadian women’s national team head coach. “You have to give the Whitecaps credit, they came out and played hard.”
With two periods in the books, both teams tried to push for the win in the final 25 minutes. The match started to get increasingly physical as Whitecaps FC striker Mele French was taken down in the box by Canadian defender Candace Chapman and was awarded a penalty early in the final period. French stepped up to the spot herself and wired a shot that was well saved by Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod - yet another Whitecaps FC alum - but French was quick to the rebound and capitalized on the chance to make it 1-0 ‘Caps with 17 minutes remaining.
The national squad would not be outdone though, as Sinclair - Canada's all-time leading goal scorer - would score on a lovely chip into the far corner with just over 10 minutes to go. “It’s a terrific privilege to mark a player like Christine Sinclair,” said ‘Caps defender Brittany Galindo, who was tasked with marking the dangerous striker. “It was a beautiful goal from a world-class player.”
In the end, the match finished in a spirited 1-1 draw, with both the ‘Caps and Canadian players staying for minutes afterwards to sign countless autographs and interact with their many young fans. “The support we get here is great,” noted Sinclair. “You wouldn’t have seen anything close to this just a couple of years ago.”
The Canadian women’s national team now travels to Moncton, New Brunswick to face China in an international friendly on Wednesday, May 30. The 'Caps, meanwhile, host cross-border rivals Seattle Sounders Women at Town Centre Park in Coquitlam this coming Sunday, May 27 at 4 p.m. PT. For schedule and ticket information on the Whitecaps Women's Soccer Series presented by Kia, visit whitecapsfc.com or contact Hugh Hamilton at 778-330-1360.