With the W-League Championship ‘Final Four’ just around the corner, USLsoccer.com takes a look at the four teams contending for the W-League crown. Today, we begin with the host Seattle Sounders women.
Seattle Sounders women have been left at the altar five times. In their eleventh season in the USL W-League, the Sounders have enjoyed considerable success, making the playoffs six times and reaching the W-League Championship weekend five times.
However, those finals trips have only produced five trips to the consolation match. In 2011, the Sounders have the championship match on their mind. As hosts of the 2011 W-League Championship Presented by Umbro, the Sounders receive an automatic spot in the final four. They welcome the Central Conference champions Ottawa Fury, Easten Conference champions Atlanta Silverbacks and Western Conference champions Vancouver Whitecaps FC to Starfire Sports Stadium July 29 to 31.
“It's a slightly different perspective when you know you're in the final four before the season begins,” Sounders general manager Jon Billings said. “While you still try to win every match, you can also devote some focus to developing your team to ensure that you peak at the end of the season. I think our coaching staff and players all believe we can win the championship.”
The Sounders’ runs at past W-League championships through the years have been the product of their on-field talent. The squad has featured a number of players who have played in WPS or on the U.S. National Team, including Tina Ellertson, Cori Alexander, Lisa Sari, Lyndsey Patterson, Michelle French, Sophie Reiser and Justi Baumgardt-Yamada.
Both Reiser and Baumgardt-Yamada are current members of the Sounders, and are helping their side prepare for the W-League championship. Reiser has paced the Sounders offense thus far this season with five goals. Most of this year’s squad is fairly new to the organization and the Sounders believe that’s an advantage.
“History doesn't really factor in for us,” Billings said. “I think this year we have a different style of play than years past. Our talent is also a bit younger than past years, which could help us in the later parts of the season.”
The Sounders sit in the heart of soccer-mad Pacific Northwest and they are hoping to put in a spectacular performance in front of their home fans. They are expecting a big turnout for the championship.
“We are working with Washington Youth Soccer, the Sounders FC, local clubs, and of course our local community to promote the event and make it something to be proud of,” Billings said. “Seattle is buzzing for soccer right now, and we're certainly piggy-backing on the excitement. We hope we can shine a light on the ladies side of Washington soccer and build a new support to take our organization to a new level.”
Now preparing to face the undefeated Ottawa Fury (14W-0L-0D) in the W-League semifinals, the Sounders look to end their season on a high.
“The four teams competing on July 29 and 31 will all be tremendous teams,” Billings said. “We will have a slight advantage of field familiarity, fan support, and home confines, so why not us to win it all?”
Having defeated Santa Clarita Blue Heat in Sunday’s W-League Western Conference playoff final, Whitecaps FC now travel across the border for the W-League Championship ‘Final Four’ in Tukwila, Washington. The action begins this Friday, July 29, as they face Atlanta Silverbacks in the W-League semifinals. Should Whitecaps FC win on Friday, they will face the winner of the other semifinal between the host Seattle Sounders Women and the undefeated Ottawa Fury in the W-League Championship Final on Sunday, July 31, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. PT. Sunday’s Championship Final will be shown on tape-delay on Fox Sports World Canada on Monday, August 1. Stay tuned for all the latest news on whitecapsfc.comor follow at facebook.com/whitecapsfc or twitter.com/whitecapsfc.
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