Seattle Sounders Women midfielder Sophie Hirst, right, and Vancouver Island FC defender Rachel Baird pursue a cross in Sunday's match in Seattle. [Maddy Grassy Photography]
Coming into a league as an expansion franchise is never an easy task.
Vancouver Island FC, after falling to Spokane SC Shadow in their first WPSL game, was faced with the challenge of battling the Seattle Sounders Women, the defending WPSL Champions.
With coach Wes Barrett leading the way, upset-minded Vancouver Island players came into the match with a competitive fire that carried them to one of the greatest wins in recent WPSL memory, a 2-1 victory over the Sounders.
Behind an inspired first half effort from Vancouver’s defensive line and fantastic play from goalkeeper Emily Moore, who made five saves in the first half, the first half ended scoreless.
Sounders Women came out of the half time break with a vengeance and found the back of the net with Melina Ayres goal in the 57th minute.
Rather than backing down after conceding to the defending champions, Vancouver Island answered with a goal of its own just two minutes later. The goal came when Natalie Cavallin struck true on a shot from distance.
“Natalie took a ball on her left foot and struck it really well from about 18 yards out across the face of goal to the bottom corner,” Barrett said. “It was a great finish, and the women felt great about it.”
The goal served as an emotional lift for Vancouver Island, for it continued to press Seattle’s back line. Liz Gregg clinched the victory in the 84th minute. After winning the ball in the midfield, defender Kiara Kilbey found Gregg behind Seattle’s back line. Gregg dribbled past Sounder goalkeeper Madeline Nielsen and slotted the goal home.
With six minutes left to play, it took a collective team effort to maintain the 2-1 advantage.
“After going up in the game, the girls stayed organized and kept things compact from back to front,” Barrett said. “Every player made an impact and played a role in the game in some way, a great team performance over all.”
For the Sounders, the loss marked their first WPSL loss since June 18, 2017. With the victory, Vancouver Island may have momentum as it looks to compete for a playoff spot in its first WPSL campaign.
More importantly, the upset win should drum up excitement for the team and women’s soccer on Vancouver Island.
“We have not had high level soccer on the island in the summer for many years, and this league and this team is helping to fill that gap,” Barrett said. “Getting young players excited about the game and this team is a top priority for us, and we are starting to get that.”
LA Premier FC wins in Convincing Fashion
Last Friday, LA Premier FC defeated Salsa Soccer club in a dominant 4-0 win.
After creating a number of dangerous first-half offensive possessions, Premier was able to initially notch one only goal due in large part to the phenomenal play of Salsa goalkeeper Ruth-Maria Soto.
The second half was a different story. Madison Warren scored her second goal of the game just five minutes into the second half, and LA Premier FC coasted to a comfortable victory.
Premier coach Mike Davis lauded Warren for her ability to control possession in the final third and finish her opportunities in front of goal.
“Maddy Warren has been an excellent addition to our team,” Davis said. “She has a great physical presence as a center forward and is able to hold the ball up really well. She gets in the right place for her to get chances to score. Having scored four goals in three games is a testament to her quality as a forward.”
The victory was a collective effort, for the Premier back line held Salsa scoreless throughout the match. In the midfield, sisters Alyssa and Gisele Thompson led Premier. Both Thompson sisters are still in LA Premier’s Development Academy but are already providing a boost for the club’s top team.
“Alyssa Thompson has been able to link up well with Warren,” Davis said. “She is only 14 years old but yet has unbelievable speed and ability on the ball as a forward. She and her younger sister, Gisele (13 years old), have both played significant minutes in the last two games. They are two sisters to watch out for in years to come.”
The following night, LA Premier FC battled FC Golden State to a 1-1 draw and currently sit in first place in the always competitive Coastal Conference.