European imports making their mark - The Province

Marc Weber Katrin Schmidt and Sanna Talonen making most of Vancouver experience With only a 12-game regular season and so much to do and see in a new city, it would be easy to forgive the Vancouver Whitecaps' European imports, Katrin Schmidt and Sanna Talonen, for a lack of emotional investment. But the Florida State duo, who arrived in Vancouver in late May, say that they are keen to help the Caps make a push for a W-League title -- feelings that were entrenched on the team's recent stint in California. "This last roadtrip, we really bonded with our teammates. It doesn't feel like we're playing as individuals now," Talonen, the Finn, says from an Earls where she and Schmidt, a German, are watching Euro 2008. Remarkably, Talonen is cheering for Sweden. "All the team is really nice and helpful, which makes it easier to feel for the team and want to win for them," adds Schmidt. "We came to see a different city and different culture -- we want to go to the mountains and do some kayaking -- but at the same time we want to win. It's a good mix." They also have more personal reasons to chase a championship, having lost the NCAA title game 2-0 to Southern California in December. The pair, along with Whitecaps and Canada under-20 goalie Erin McNulty, were key members of the Seminoles squad that had the best finish in school history, but the sour taste has lingered. "I'm still upset," says Schmidt, who like Talonen has one more year of eligibility remaining. "The Final Four was an awesome environment (almost 8,000 attended the semifinal and final in Texas), good games and a bad ending." Both received individual honours and, while those might not count for much in the consolation department, they do spark some humourous remarks. Talonen, a Finnish international forward who scored 18 times -- eight of those in the NCAA tournament -- was named national freshman of the year by Soccer America. "I was embarrassed," she says. "A 23-year-old freshman gets the prize? I would have given it to someone else." Schmidt, a defender, was named to the all-ACC academic team for a third-year running and made the school's President's List after earning a 4.0 GPA. "I think my high school was harder," she says of her course load in international affairs -- apparently not as challenging as it sounds. Talonen, a social science major, was also on the all-academic team. Back in Finland she studied electrical engineering. Both Schmidt, soon-to-be 22, and Talonen, who just turned 24, have been big assets to the Whitecaps -- their experience and skill invaluable of late with so many players away with the under-20 national team. Schmidt's poise and technical ability both at the back and going forward is evident, while Talonen has an obvious chemistry with Tiffeny Milbrett. "She's so easy to play with," Talonen says of the American international. "She's smart. She doesn't have to look and she knows where I'm going."