Death of Vancouver Whitecaps’ W-League team ‘pretty upsetting’ for players
Club says it’s still committed to women’s soccer in Canada
Canada’s captain Christine Sinclair (in white) is stopped on a breakaway by Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Alyssa Williamson while blue-clad Whitecaps players rush back in defence during their pre-Olympic friendly match at South Surrey Athletic Park on May 24, 2012.
Photograph by: Les Bazso, PNG files
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps won’t field a women’s team in 2013, choosing to withdraw from the W-League while it explores what the club calls other “development opportunities” to grow the women’s game in Canada.
The Whitecaps women won two championships in 12 seasons and made the Final Four seven times, but struggled to a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference in 2012 with just three wins and six draws in 14 games.
“It’s pretty upsetting,” said striker Jenna Richardson, a Surrey product who scored four goals and added four assists in nine games last season. “People don’t realize how awesome it was to play right in your hometown.
“I thought we were building a pretty good support group. To know we’re not going to continue that is kind of surprising.”
Richardson, who was also a member of the 2011 squad that made it to the Final Four, just completed a strong junior season at Oregon State University. That earned her a call-up to a Canadian national team year-end training and assessment camp in Vancouver starting next Wednesday.
The demise of the women Whitecaps comes on the heels of the startup of a new eight-team women’s pro league in the U.S. that will begin play next March or April. The Whitecaps had interest, but president Bob Lenarduzzi said the timing wasn’t right.
The Canadian Soccer Association will pay the salaries of 16 Canadian players to be selected by national team head coach John Herdman. While players off Canada’s bronze medal-winning London Olympic team will get their shot, Herdman has suggested he’d like to place some younger players who could figure into the national team’s plans for the 2016 Olympics.
Richardson says it’s unlikely she would play in the pro league because it would affect her last year of college eligibility.
Rachel Lewis, chief operating officer of the Whitecaps, said the decision to suspend operations of a women’s team was not related to last season’s poor record. The club recruited several American players out of the U.S. college system, then did not make the playoffs.
“Being able to field a competitive team was not even in the scope of real consideration,” she said.
“But with the development of the women’s pro league and many of the senior elite athletes to be placed there, we just didn’t feel that (fielding a W-League team) was meeting our objective to really support development of the game.”
She said the Whitecaps are committed to the women’s game in Canada, but offered no specifics on what form their support will take.
Richardson said she understands the focus on the new pro league, “but we kind of get the crappier end of the stick.”
Lewis noted the W-League has a very short season and a lot of players in the league were in other competitive environments through university and other programs.
She said the “handful” of Canadian-born Whitecaps players who will be affected will likely have opportunities with other Canadian W-League teams. There is a team in Victoria and six teams in the Eastern Conference, including Ottawa, Quebec City, Laval, Toronto, Hamilton and London.
Richardson said she’d like to say close to home, “but at the same time, I can’t be that picky any more.”
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