NORTH VANCOUVER, BC - Exactly one year ago today, Vancouver Whitecaps FC women (2W-3L-3D) handed the first-place Pali Blues (9W-0L-1D) their first - and only - defeat of the 2011 United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League season.
Since then, the elite Los Angeles outfit had been undefeated in 14 consecutive regular season contests, including nine straight wins this season, prior to Sunday’s rematch against Vancouver.
Although a repeat was not in the cards on Sunday, the ‘Caps proved once again they can compete with the best.
They were the only team to beat the Blues last season, and they became the first to take a point off them this season with a hard-fought, scoreless draw Sunday at Kinsmen Stadium in North Vancouver - a match hosted by North Shore Girls Soccer Club.
“I think it’s a positive. We go into every game trying to win,” Whitecaps FC head coach Jesse Symons told whitecapsfc.com. “They’ve obviously had a great start to their season and have stressed a lot of teams offensively. But in the end, we’re not happy with a tie. We’ve been pushing through the last few matches and we’ll definitely look at our next match as an opportunity to steal some points off them.”
After opening the season with three losses, the ‘Caps are now unbeaten in five matches, as they continue to climb the W-League Western Conference standings. With nine points, they are now just two points behind the fourth-place Santa Clarita Blue Heat in the division.
On a picturesque afternoon at Kinsmen Stadium, the boisterous 755 fans in attendance were treated to an evenly-played opening 45 minutes, though things almost got off to a disastrous start.
Just five minutes into the match, Blues midfielder Nikki Washington picked up the ball at the top of the ‘Caps’ box and went for goal, but her curling strike just missed the top right corner of the net.
They nearly drew first blood again in the 14th minute off a set-piece, but ‘Caps keeper Gurveen Clair was up to the task, making a nice sprawling save off midfielder Camille Levin’s first-time effort from inside the area.
Although the visiting Blues came into the match as the top team in the W-League, having only surrendered two goals in nine games, the ‘Caps did not look outmatched.
Striker Jenna Richardson made several well-timed runs down the right flank and caused trouble in the Blues’ final third. She nearly set up fellow striker Mele French with a low cross in the 15th minute, but Blues goalkeeper Anna Picarelli left her goal line to intercept the pass and keep matters scoreless.
It remained that way for the duration of the match, but it wasn’t for a lack of chances.
Richardson was at it again in the 59th minute, this time making a run down the left flank before cutting back into the middle and going for goal, but it was not to be, as her shot sailed high and wide.
“She’s getting close,” Symons said. “It’s going to come for her one of these days. As of now, she just has to fight through the last step to find an opportunity that she’s really going to finish. I’m sure it’s going to come in waves once she gets one.”
Despite a pair of corners from each side in the final 20 minutes, one which forced ‘Caps striker Marissa Mykines to make a goal-line block in the 86th minute, the final whistle sounded, with the match ending in stalemate.
Riding a five-match unbeaten streak, Whitecaps FC will travel to California on Wednesday for a re-match against the undefeated Blues, who have not conceded a goal in 381 minutes. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles.
Whitecaps FC women play their final home match of the Whitecaps Women’s Soccer Series on Sunday, July 8, at 7 p.m. PT at Minoru Oval Park in Richmond, BC. For schedule and ticket information, visit whitecapsfc.com or contact Hugh Hamilton at 778-330-1360.
Shots: Vancouver 6 – Pali Blues 9
Saves: Vancouver 4 – Pali Blues 2
Fouls: Vancouver 17 – Pali Blues 7
Corners: Vancouver 4 – Pali Blues 5
Offsides: Vancouver 0 – Pali Blues 1
68' - VAN - Molly Rouse
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
30.Gurveen Clair; 4.Danielle Johnson, 25.Jenna Carosio, 33.Shannon Woeller, 8.Demi Stokes; 22.Brandi Vega (18.Nicole Setterlund 36'), 23.Jennifer Jeffers (15.Nicole Ambrose 45'), 21.Paige Adams (2.Taylor Patterson 45',24.Marissa Mykines 76'), 19.Molly Rouse (16.Mary McLaughlin 74'); 3.Jenna Richardson (28.Brittany Galindo 89'), 29.Mele French
Substitute not used: 31.Alyssa Williamson
1.Anna Picarelli; 15.Michelle Pao, 13.Sasha Andrews, 18.Shaner, Christie, 5.Kahlia Hogg (20.Mariah Noguiera 45'); 2.Camille Levin, 14.Sarah Huffman, 6.Servet Uzunlar; 3.Elizabeth Eddy (8.Anisa Guajardo 77'), 25.Lynn Williams (34.Danielle Hubka 53'), 26,Nikki Washington
Substitutes not used: 21.Ryan Torrero, 10.Beth West