COQUITLAM, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps played their best game of the season against the LA Strikers at Percy Perry Stadium on Wednesday night and were rewarded with a 3-1 win, their first of the season.
In their previous games this season the Whitecaps had been getting plenty of scoring opportunities but the ball just wasn’t finding the back of the net. That all changed in the first half against the Strikers.
Vancouver dominated this game for large stretches and had LA on their heals from the opening kickoff. Whitecaps leading scorer Mele French nearly opened the scoring in the 3rd minute when she took a pass from Jennifer Jeffers and broke down the left-wing, but she fired the ball wide of the Strikers net.
In the 12th minute Strikers goalie Alyssa Congdon made a terrific save off of Whitecaps forward Jenna Richardson by diving to her right to push the ball away for a corner. That big save gave the Strikers some momentum for the time being and it paid off with a goal in the 15th minute of play. The usually sure-footed Demi Stokes gave the ball away in a dangerous position and Strikers forward Mary Ronau hammered the ball off the crossbar and past Whitecaps goalie Gurveen Clair. That was the lone bright spot for LA because it all went down hill after that goal.
The Whitecaps countered with a goal of their own in the 19th minute by Mele French. The Whitecaps weren’t done and before that goal was even announced Marissa Mykines rifled the ball past Strikers goalie Alyssa Congdon in the 20th minute. The Whitecaps had a 3-on-2 and Jenna Richardson made a pass over to her right which allowed Mykines to beat the LA goalie.
Mykines almost added her second goal of the game in the 36th minute when she found herself the recipient of a lovely through ball that sent her in on a breakaway. Congdon came out to cut the angle down and Mykines went around her and unfortunately for her she missed high and wide with the gaping Strikers net left unguarded.
A trio of Whitecaps players put on a beautiful display of passing in the 42nd minute to give Mele French her second goal of the game. Mykines sent in a through ball down the right side to Jenna Richardson. Richardson was in a prime shooting position but instead she gently crossed the ball perfectly over to French. The Strikers defenders were out to dinner and did not get back to the net in time before French easily headed the ball into the Strikers net.
French said the goal required a little bit of luck.
“The first goal it was a great through ball from one of our midfielders,” she said. “This past training session and this past training week I’ve been working on making sure I can get a shot off and I took a shot and luck went my way today. I think it was for both of them to, I was in the right place at the right time. Jenna (Richardson) made a great run down the line and played a perfect ball into my head and I just placed it in.”
Jenna Richardson picked up two assists on the evening and played a vital role in the Whitecaps’ first win of the season. The 19-year-old White Rock, B.C. native, is playing in her second season with the Whitecaps and certainly has a bright future ahead of her if she continues to play like she did against the LA Strikers.
“All of us before the game had a lot of built up somewhat frustration because of our record and how we had been playing,” Richardson said. “It almost felt like every game was ripped from beneath us but I think our biggest thing tonight was to come out here and enjoy it and play for each other and just try and get a win.”
The second half was a stalemate with both teams not really doing much of anything. On a cold June night the Strikers looked like they wanted to be back in that warm California sun. The Whitecaps created more chances to score but with the game at 3-1 both coaches decided to rest players and bring on five different subs in the second half.
The most interesting change was when Strikers coach Demian Brown decided to switche goalies in the 74th minute. Alyssa Congdon, who didn’t appear to be injured went off for Danish goalie Nicoline Jorguensen. Since Jorguensen didn’t have a jersey with a number on it she had to switch with Congdon half way across the field. Jorguensen made some terrific saves in extra time off of Whitecaps players Jaclyn Sawicki, and Brandi Vega to give herself some confidence.
The hungry Vancouver Whitecaps team that showed up to play the LA Strikers in Coquitlam is the team fans and media thought they would see back when the season started in Victoria. The Whitecaps have dug themselves a hole in the USL-W-League Western Conference standings but if they play like they can and did against LA they will be tough to beat the rest of the season.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Starting XI: Gurveen Clair; Danielle Johnson, Shannon Woeller, Jenna Carosio, Demi Stokes; Jennifer Jeffers, Paige Adams, Molly Rouse, Marissa Mykines; Jenna Richardson, Mele French.
Los Angeles Strikers Starting XI: Alyssa Congdon; Vanessa Valentine, Rachel Fleming, Kristin Krohn, Dominique Richardson; Chelsea Cline, Caitlin Munoz, Kassi Massey; Barbara Roberts, Hannah Beard, Mary Ronau.
Notes: The Vancouver Whitecaps will play their next game on Friday, June 22, against the Santa Clarita Blue Heat at Newton Athletic Park in Surrey at 7:30 p.m. PT. The LA Strikers will look to rebound from this loss in Victoria, B.C. on Friday. The Strikers defeated the Victoria Highlanders 3-0 in California on Friday June 8.