SURREY, B.C. – On a wet and rainy Friday night at Newton Athletic Park the Vancouver Whitecaps outlasted the dreary weather and their opponents by scoring two second half goals to beat the visiting Santa Clarita Blue Heat 2-0.
The Blue Heat had the best chance to open the scoring in the early moments of the game when defender Sydney Vermillion hit the crossbar off a free kick that was awarded thanks to a foul committed by Whitecaps center back Shannon Woeller. This proved to be Santa Clarita’s best chances to score in the opening half.
Once the Whitecaps settled into the game and the extremely slick pitch leading scorer Mele French had a great opportunity to score in the 34th minute. French broke down the wing and fired a shot on goal from a tough angle that Blue Heat goalie Cynthia Jacobo barely managed to kick away just outside her left post. On the subsequent corner Shannon Woeller almost converted with a header from French’s delivery into the box however the ball sailed over the net. Jenna Richardson sent French in on a breakaway in the 43rd minute and the Hawaiian forward rushed her shot on goal as she attempted to chip the ball over Jacobo. Both teams went to their respective locker rooms at the half tied at 0-0
The game did not stay deadlocked for very long in the second half because midfielder Molly Rouse sent French in on another breakaway in the 49th minute after setting her up with a terrific through ball that looked offside. French took her time and carefully placed the ball between the legs of Jacobo and into the net sending all 705 fans into a cheering frenzy.
The Whitecaps added to their goal total in the 85th minute when substitute Jaclyn Sawicki scored a cracker of a goal. French pressured Vermillion, who turned the ball over to Sawicki. The 19-year-old Coquitlam native dribbled to slot and ripped the ball over a leaping Jacobo from 30 yards out. The Whitecaps created excellent scoring chances against Santa Clarita and Cynthia Jacobo was left on an island by herself at times. Mele French talked about why she decided not to try to chip the ball over the goalie on her second breakaway of the game.
“It was a bit different,” she said. “I knew I had a lot of time and we worked on a lot of breakaway finishing this past week and I just worked on keeping my hips open so I was unpredictable and I just kept it low and passed it right in. She gave me a pretty good angle near post.”
French seems to be the only consistent scoring threat on the Vancouver Whitecaps game in and game out but she feels the team will succeed even if she is not scoring the goals.
“You know what, if I weren’t here I think they would have the same exact outcome,” French said. “They would find ways to score. I’m sure this team is great; we’ve got amazing attackers who can very well put the balls away but it’s not like I get the ball and I dribble through 11 players. My teammates give me the ball and they give perfect balls and they do the job for me basically so I’ve got the easy part.”
Sawicki scored a brilliant goal and described what happened on the play.
“Mele did a great job pressing the ball and I just happened to be there behind here,” she said. “I just took a touch and saw the goalie off the line and thought why not and it happened to go into the back of the net.”
Whitecaps goalkeeper Gurveen Clair was sharp again in net earning her second clean sheet of the season. Clair has started six consecutive games for the Whitecaps while No. 1 goalie Justine Bernier recovers from a quad injury. It doesn’t sound like Bernier will be returning to game action anytime soon. Coach Jesse Symons will call on Clair to start on Sunday against league-leading Pali Blues. Symons is impressed by how well Clair has played this season.
“Gurveen got a bit of a run with the (Victoria) Highlanders last year but wanted to come home and has proven full credit she’s gotten more confident, and a lot more comfortable with the group at the back and has shown it the last few games that she doesn’t want to allow goals and is doing her best to help our team win,” Symons said.
With their second win of the season the Whitecaps now have a 2-3-2 record and sit 5th in the USL W-League Western Conference. Coach Symons was very pleased with his team’s performance after the game.
“We started a little slow, in saying that we didn’t allow much which was good to see,” he said. “As the game wore on we got stronger and stronger and great finish by Mele she deserved one tonight and then I can’t give enough credit for Jackie who saw the keeper off the line a bit what shot so a well deserved victory tonight by the group they worked extremely hard and I’m very pleased.”
Vancouver Whitecaps Starting XI: Gurveen Clair; Demi Stokes, Shannon Woeller, Danielle Johnson, Jenna Carosio; Nicole Setterlund, Marissa Mykines, Molly Rouse, Jennifer Jeffers; Jenna Richardson, Mele French;
Santa Clarita Blue Heat Starting XI: Cynthia Jacobo; Kayla Kret, Sydney Vermillion, Madison Van Dine, Taryne Boudreau; Holly Hein, Marisha Schumacher-Hodge, Ana Borges, Shasta Fisher; Edite Fernandes, Rachel Nuzzolese;
Notes: No cards were issued during the game. The Blue Heat finish their five game road trip on Sunday, June 24, against the second place Seattle Sounders at 4:00 P.M. ET. The Whitecaps will also be in action on Sunday, June 24, when they play the undefeated Pali Blues at Kinsmen Stadium in North Vancouver at 3:00 P.M. ET.
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