Los Angeles Soccer: Ashlin Yahr
July, 24, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
SANTA CLARITA -- Fabian Sandoval has not the least doubt had his team not been hit hard by injuries down the stretch, it would be en route to Seattle for next weekend's W-League final four. And probably win the championship.
Instead, an immensely rewarding -- and seemingly surprising -- campaign in the United Soccer Leagues' women's competition ended in pain for Santa Clarita Blue Heat, which didn't quite have the manpower to overcome the Vancouver Whitecaps in Sunday night's Western Conference final at College of the Canyons.
Blue Heat (8-2-5) rallied from a two-goal deficit and enjoyed a man advantage for the final 10 minutes, but the Whitecaps (9-2-4) advanced to their second successive W-League final four in a 4-3 thriller.
Kailyn Kyle scored the winner, finishing from a goalmouth scramble in the 88th minute, her second goal of the game. UCLA star Sydney Leroux and former L.A. Sol defender Martina Franko also tallied for the Whitecaps, who will join host Seattle Sounders (5-5-4), Atlanta Silverbacks (11-1-0) and Ottawa Fury (14-0-0) next week in Tukwila, Wash.
“Expectations coming in for our coaching staff was to get to this point ...,” said Sandoval, who also is director of coaching for Santa Clarita United and a volunteer assistant with Cal State L.A.'s women's team. “I couldn't ask any more from our players with all the injuries this season. No doubt in my mind that if we had the same group that we started with, we'd be in Seattle. No doubt.
“[Vancouver is] a great team, but full squad with us, we're better than them any day of the week.”
Santa Clarita, a second-year club that won the conference regular-season title by a point over the 'Caps, was missing seven players, five of them starters, including likely conference MVP Edite Fernandes, a Portuguese national-teamer sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“She's the heart and soul. These girls know it,” Sandoval said. “I think she's the MVP of the W-League. We're lucky enough to have been able to see her play. She's that great of a player.”