Thursday, December 22, 2005

W-League Showcases the Maple Leaf

W-League Showcases the Maple Leaf
Written by Bill Ault
Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Canadian soccer fans might be forgiven if they are beginning to think that the “W” in W-League should be replaced by a “C” to reflect the Canadian content. With established franchises in Vancouver, Sudbury, Toronto and Ottawa and the addition of teams in London, Hamilton and Laval seven of 37 franchises in the league are now based in Canada and the influence of Canadian teams and players has never been stronger.

This especially the case in the where the defending Eastern Conference Champion and League Finalists Ottawa Fury will face their arch rivals in Toronto as well as the Hamilton Avalanche, the Laval Comets, and Sudbury Canadians in addition to their revamped American cousins the Rochester Ravens and the Vermont Lady Voltage.

This leaves the Vancouver Whitecaps and London Gryphons flying the Maple Leaf solo in the Western Conference and Midwest Divisions respectively.

The Whitecaps will face nemesis Seattle in addition to the Fort Collins Force, Mile High Edge, Real Colorado Cougars, and the San Diego Gauchos while London are playing an exhibition schedule in 2005 will play the Chicago Gaels, Cincinnati Ladyhawks, Cleveland Internationals, Fort Wayne Fever, Michigan Hawks, Minnesota, and the West Michigan Firewomen.

The Canadian influence stretches beyond just the teams to the players themselves with a number of Canadian suiting up for American franchises including national team members Karina Leblanc and Christine Latham who suited up for the league champion New Jersey Wildcats in 2005, Melissa Tancredi in Atlanta and Charmaine Hooper in Chicago.

Additionally the league has obviously helped in the development of younger national team level players as well with 13 of 20 players invited last week to head coach Ian Bridge’s national team camp having playing experience in the W-League.

Ten of the 13 played in the W-League last season with five representing two of the four semifinalists. Goalkeeper Erin McNulty and midfielder Veronique Miranda are from the finalist Ottawa Fury while Jodi-Ann Robinson, Sophie Schmidt and Emily Zurrer played for the third-place Vancouver Whitecaps.

Amanda Cicchini and Robin Rushton played for the expansion Toronto Lady Lynx, who reached the Eastern Conference final. Stephanie Labbe and Katie Radchuck played for the Western Mass Lady Pioneers last season while Caroline Vanderpool was a member of the first-year Vermont Lady Voltage.

In total 67 games in the 2006 W-League schedule will feature a Canadian team and 20 of those will be a battle between two Canadian franchises.


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