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August 9, 2004

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What a dramatic finish to a memorable season for the Whitecaps Women, as they won the W-League championship in Ottawa on penalties. It was the 3rd time Vancouver's W-League team reached the final four tournament, and this time it was a charm, as Erin McLeod became a surprise hero, belting home the decisive penalty in the Championship final. It was ironic that McLeod would score against her future Penn State team-mate Amanda Brown, who she'll likely replace as the Nittany Lions number one keeper this fall. (McLeod's math may need some work too, as she didn't even realise the title was won on her kick, until being mobbed by her team-mates!)

First year Women's coach Chris Bennett and his assistant Pat Rohla deserve plenty of credit for getting the players all on the same page, when in the past, there were rumblings of division in the squad, especially among those in the national team program. Bennett's game plan was executed to perfection, including a tactical adjustment between the 2-1 semi final win over Chicago, to the final against New Jersey, in which the Caps went from a 3-5-2 formation, to a more conservative 4-4-2. Winning the championship this season is even more special, when you consider the W-League absorbed many of the top players from WUSA, and the fact that the Whitecaps were without players like the injured Diana Artuso, former star Christine Sinclair, and U-19 stalwart Katie Thorlakson. A total of 39 teams compete in the W-League, but only one can claim to have gone the distance without a single loss. And for that, the Whitecaps Women should be very proud of what has been a truly magical season.

One player who was keeping a watchful eye on the Women's results in Ottawa, was Steve Kindel, who had a marvellous game in the 0-0 draw with Montreal on Friday. Kindel nearly won it in overtime, when he hammered a strike off a short corner that Jeff Clarke had dummied. The Whitecaps number 8 is preparing to sign the most important long term contract in his career, when he marries the Whitecaps other number 8, Sara Maglio! The couple has been together for, naturally, 8 years, and will make it official in September (hopefully after Steve duplicates Sara's feat of winning a championship medal). Both players are actively involved in youth soccer, as Sara coaches on the North Shore, while Steve is the Head coach of my Alma matter.the Dunbar Soccer Association.

I found it staggering to read Scott Zerr's recent article in the Edmonton Sun, on how much debt the Edmonton Aviators organization managed to rack up in less than three months. One estimate had the team owing its creditors more than $650,000, including $30,000 alone to Lotto, the suppliers of those 'interesting' looking uniforms! While the sad legacy of the Aviators makes you wonder if anyone will support pro soccer in Edmonton again, at least one person thinks that city will have a team in the A-league next season. Calgary Mustangs Head CoachThomas Niendorf, who himself has had to deal with less than favourable crowds and results this season, thinks soccer in Northern Alberta can still be rescued, if the team can play in a more suitable venue (like Clarke Park) using local players. As for Calgary ownership, the Berlin born Niendorf has a positive outlook on soccer in Calgary, saying the Mustangs are committed long term, and operating on a much more modest scale than their northern rivals.

With confirmation of the 2007 FIFA World Youth Championships coming to Canada, there may be extra incentive to help Greg Kerfoot realize his vision of an outdoor Stadium near downtown Vancouver. Tuesday's announcement by FIFA means the CSA can proceed with construction of a soccer stadium where Varsity used to stand, and one can pretty much guarantee that's where the World Youth Tournament will open in July of2007. After that, you'd have to think Edmonton will get at least somegroup play, given their support of the U19 Women's World Championship. Montreal has emerged as a potential host city, leaving markets like Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver in the hunt for a share of the tournament's spoils. Although the Whitecaps organization has remained tight-lipped about a new stadium, no one is denying that plans have been drawn. Bob Lenarduzzi even divulged the proposed Main and Terminal location during a recent radio interview. These are amazing times for soccer in Canada, and thanks to FIFA and a visionary owner; we may be on the cusp of something that just 5 years ago, seemed totally improbable.

I'll be very interested at fan response to Sunday's early kick-off time against the Sounders. I've always enjoyed afternoon kick-offs for World Cup or Olympic Qualifying matches, and a 1pm start allows you to see a game and still have Sunday dinner with the family. Fans who attend the I-5 derby will get to see the Whitecaps Men collect the Cascadia Cup, while the women show off their new W-League Champions Trophy.

Peter Schaad provides colour commentary for the Whitecaps this Week.

Join Hosts Craig MacEwen, Bob Lenarduzzi and Peter Schaad as they take a look inside Vancouver Whitecaps A- League Soccer Team, through Features,Highlights and Game Previews on Whitecaps this Week.

Got a comment or a question for Peter? Email him here.  

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