The Vancouver Whitecaps expected to face their toughest challenge of the W-League season on Sunday against the powerful Pali Blues at Palisades High School's 'Stadium by the Sea.'
They got it and them some.
The previously undefeated Whitecaps were shutout 4-0 by the hometown Blues in the afternoon game in Santa Monica, Calif.
Vancouver's youth was no match offensively for an experienced Pali team, comprised mostly of former U.S.A. youth internationals along with three members of Australia's national team and a former Canadian and Italian national team player.
The home side opened scoring just 11 minutes into the game and followed up with a trio of markers in the second half of play.
While the defeat was Vancouver's worst since the 2001 W-League Final - when the team, then known as the Breakers, fell 5-1 to the Boston Renegades inVirginia Beach, Va. - the score was not indicative of the game, said Whitecaps assistant coach Marc Rizzardo.
"It was definitely not a 4-0 game, our players battled very well," said Rizzardo, whose patchwork roster included only a pair of players who have seen action in the team's first eight games.
Many of the Whitecaps starters did not make the trip due to Canadian Under-20 team commitments. "Overall we can compete with them, and I'm looking forward to next Sunday when we will have some fresh bodies and can work on some tactics that we can use to stymie their attack."
Despite the lopsided loss, Vancouver can take solace in returning home from its three-games-in-six-days road trip with a pair of fine wins.
Vancouver (5-1-2) currently sits in second place in the seven-team loop, one point back of the Blues (6-0) and nine points up on third place Real Colorado Cougars (2-1-2).
Pali has two games in hand while the Denver-based Cougars have played three fewer games than Vancouver. Only the top two teams in the conference advance to the W-Lague playoff tournament.
The Whitecaps and Blues renew acquaintances next Sunday at Swangard Stadium in the first game of a double-header. The Whitecaps men play the Miami FC Blues in the second game starting at 7 p.m.