This Sunday, at 4:00, in Coquitlam, the Sounders Women will kick their season off against their neighbors to the North. The rivalry between these two teams is not unlike the men's sides. There is certainly no love lost between these teams. Especially since Sydney Leroux signed with the Sounders, rather than her "home" team. The Caps would love nothing better than to show that they are the superior team. They currently have seven Canadian National Team players on their roster. On paper, they should steamroll every other team in their division. Sound familiar? They have had a rough start though, falling to 0-2-0 in league play.
The Caps just played a friendly against the Canadian National team, and came away with a 1-1 draw in three periods of play. So momentum could be on their side. Neither team will have their National team players, as both Canada and the US will be facing China. The United States will face China on the same day as the Sounders vs. Whitecaps game, in front of a sold out crowd at PPL Park.
This is where the depth of both benches will be proven. In my opinion, the Sounders should come out on top. We will have Veronica Perez leading our side. She has scored in each of our pre-season games, and has the experience and strength to continue finding the goal from the eighteen and beyond. She will also have Sophie Reiser to share the load with. Sophie was the leading scorer for the 2011 Sounders Women, in spite of missing games due to injury. There is also 5'10" forward Kara Kuttler to draw attention from the Caps' defenders.
When asked how the Sounders will face their Northern nemesis, Coach French said, "We have an opportunity to really see what we're made of against arguably some of the best players in Canada, and even some special players who have spent time in the WPS. In playing Vancouver over the years, we know we have to be extremely organized defensively, and then have the patience to play when we gain possession. Our own roster is full of very talented players who will love stepping up to the challenge of competing against a very dangerous Vancouver team."
I asked Coach French how the Sounders will respond to the challenge of playing against a team that started their season off on the wrong foot; a team that will be very hungry for their first win of the season. She responded by saying that "Both teams come into the match with a strong need to come away with a win." She said that it wasn't so much how the Sounders were going to respond to the challenge of the Caps' need to win, but how they maintained their own game.
"For us, the focus will be to put our best product out there from the opening whistle. Playing with a confidence in our own abilities, rather than worrying about what other teams might do, will be huge for our success as we move forward into the regular season."
I know that the Whitecaps traditionally have the largest crowds at their games. That is, until this season. I fully expect the Sounders Women that trounce that tradition. The field in Coquitlam is very tiny. I understand that if the game isn't sold out, it is very close. I also understand that there is a small contingent of fans traveling up I-5 to cheer on the Sounders. If you are heading up to the game, and would like to co-ordinate with the contingent, you can find the details here. If you can't make it, perhaps you can make it to the season home opener against the Colorado Rush on May 31st. You can purchase tickets to that game through the Sounders Women website, here.
When I brought up the fact that the Whitecaps' fans are usually loud and organized, Coach French said that she didn't think the Women would be too distracted. Since the Sounders pre-season games have been filled to capacity, they are used to fans being loud and involved.
"We have definitely been spoiled with the outpouring of support at Starfire during our exhibition games, which has been a huge benefit to us! With Vancouver, in particular, being our opponent for our first league game, the players know the importance of getting some points out of the road trip. I firmly believe we have enough experience on this team to be able to look past the excitement and intensity going on around them, and be solely focused on what is going on on the field. No doubt the Vancouver fans will make it an electric atmosphere!"
Electric indeed. Come on you Sounders!