World Cup Qualifiers: Mexico and Canada

Canada after the 4-0 win over Costa Rica

There are not enough pictures of Mexico's historic 2-1 win over the US

And what is the word from the US camp?

“We needed to use the flanks a little more and get a better transition. We tried to keep possession in the wrong situations, so when we had the chance for transition to play that final pass, we didn’t. We waited to long.” -USWNT Head Coach Pia Sundhage (courtesy of ussoccer.com)

Let me boil that down for you: We waited too long.

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WPS Philadelphia-Washington, or NCAA Boston College-Rutgers?

Last year, I made it to six regular season WPS games, one regular season W-League game, and the W-League final.  I didn’t manage to attend any NCAA games, missing my chance to see UCLA at Illinois because of the rain that weekend.

This year, I made it to one preseason WPS/NCAA game (Chicago at Illinois), four regular season WPS games (three of which were FC Gold Pride road games!), and now my WPS season is over. My personal attendance is definitely down. Philadelphia is hosting the first round of the WPS playoffs, but I am (somewhat) superstitious when I am emotionally invested in a game. So I already have plans to attend Boston College-Rutgers in New Jersey instead. These two teams have both started the season strong, with the exception of Rutgers’ strange loss to Monmouth at home.

BC is probably the better-known team these days. Last year, they had an incredible season, both in the ACC and NCAA.  The roster is peppered with US youth national team players (U-20 and U-23), and I would guess they are due at least one player from the 2010 U-17 squad. Boston College is currently ranked 5th in the nation, owing their undefeated season largely to junior goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni.

Rutgers is a respectable Big East team that doesn’t draw much attention lately. There are a few Canadian WNT and YNT players on the roster, namely Jonelle Filigno, a redshirt freshman with strong showings for both her national team and U-20 squad in 2008. This season, she has scored three goals, assisted two, and converted a PK for Rutgers. She is joined by Shannon Woeller (CWNT and U-20 team), Karla Schacher (U-20 team in 2008), and Rheanne Sleiman (U-20 in 2008 and 2006). Schacher has also added two goals this season. Their starting keeper is redshirt sophomore Emmy Simpkins.

Boston College has to take on UNC next, and Rutgers will ease into conference play by sandwiching BC between match-ups with Seton Hall and Georgetown. So this will be the last non-conference game for both teams. It will also be my first time seeing either of them in person, which is a great way for me to start the travel portion of my season. Brand new, exciting, and full of potential.

Much less nerve wracking than Philly trying to lay a smackdown on DC without giving the game away through silly fouls.

My W-League bias and fickleness, let me show you it.

My team loyalties at the W-League level aren’t as strong as they are for WPS or NCAA. These teams change so much that I go season to season, bouncing my attention around three or four teams depending the the rosters they put together and who actually shows up.  The Pali Blues had me hooked in 2008, mildly interested in 2009, and apathetic in 2010. The Vancouver Whitecaps have always had some degree of my interest, but rarely hooked my support–too many youth national players in 2008, too few of the CWNT in 2009. 2010, though, reminds me of the rosters in 2005 and 2006. When Kara Lang committed to them this season, that was it. There’s my loyalty for this year. Pali’s signing of two Irish, two Cardinal, and Alex Morgan cannot buy my love.

This year, the Whitecaps are a mix of Canadian international experience. Here is their lineup from Sunday’s 3-2 win over Pali:

1.Siobhan Chamberlain; 16.Robyn Gayle, 2.Emily Zurrer, 19.Martina Franko (3.Shannon Woeller 76′), 21.Danielle Sweeney; 13.Sophie Schmidt, 17.Chelsea Stewart, 15.Kara Lang (18.Monica Lam-Feist 79′); 10.Jodi-Ann Robinson, 6.Amy Vermeulen (11.Desiree Scott 45′), 14.Melissa Tancredi (23.Nikki Wright 90′)

Subs not used: 27.Stephanie Panozzo, 25.Rachael Pelat, Ranee Premji

If you follow the CWNT or their youth national teams at all (which I suspect is not likely), most of those names are familiar. The likes of UCLA, UNC, Portland, and Notre Dame are represented here.  There are two former WPS starters. A handful of these players have won W-League and NCAA championships in the past. Most of them have played together at various levels.

In the past couple of weeks, the Whitecaps have dealt Pali two losses, including the first in the Blues’ history. I respect Pali’s history and Charlie Naimo’s ability to put together an amazing team, year after year, and I’m glad that when Pali finally fell, it was to a team of Vancouver’s caliber.