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Force rolls over Vancouver 3-0, claims sole possession of second place

July 17, 2009 | 10:42 pm No comments
By George Tanner

kosena inside
Colorado Force midfielder Lisa Kosena traps a pass during the first half of her team’s 3-0 victory over Vancouver on Friday night in Loveland. (photo by Tom Auclair/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

With a shot at the W-League playoffs on the line, the Colorado Force put it all together Friday night.

Emmalie Pfankuch scored twice and Nikki Marshall recorded the winning goal as the Colorado Force ended its 2009 regular season on a high note, defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 on Friday night at the Loveland Sports Park.

The Force improved to 4-2-6 with its third consecutive victory and stands in second place in the W-League’s Western Conference with 18 points. The Seattle Sounders, who lost 2-0 to Los Angeles on Friday night, have 15 points and one match remaining — against the undefeated Pali Blues on Saturday in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

If Pali, 8-0-3, beats Seattle, the Force will finish alone in second and will qualify for the playoffs. If Seattle wins, the Sounders hold the first tiebreaker, head-to-head results, and would advance. Seattle beat Colorado 1-0 on May 27, and the teams tied 1-1 on June 26 in Tukwila, Wash.

“We were exited because we have a chance to get in the playoffs,” midfielder Sara Campbell said. “(Coach Craig Deacon) said, ‘The line of confrontation is there is no line of confrontation. High pressure wherever the ball is. We’re right on top of them. They have one second to make a decision.’ And we did that.”

The Force pressured Vancouver from front to back, and it paid off.

Colorado’s forwards gave the Whitecaps fits, as evidenced by Pfankuch’s goals in the 23rd and 75th minutes. The team’s defense — led by starters Zoe Avner, Carly Peetz, Estelle Johnson and Mo Smunt — never let the visiting strikers get settled in.

And the biggest advantage may have come from the midfield. Marshall, Campbell, Monica Dolinsky and Lisa Kosena attacked the Whitecaps’ goal when Colorado had the ball and attacked the Whitecaps’ players when Vancouver had it.

Take Marshall’s goal. In the 18th minute, she ran down Vancouver left back Kate Qually and blocked Qually’s attempt at a clearance. The ball dropped at Marshall’s feet, and she was off to the races. She shot right to left and beat Vancouver goalkeeper Sian Bagshawe. When her attempt hit the far post, Marshall was in position to bang it home because she kept moving forward and got to the rebound before Bagshawe could.

Similarly, it was hustle and pressure that sparked Pfankuch’s goals.

In the 23rd minute, Dolinsky chased a wide ball deep into Vancouver territory and was able to cross it as it approached the right corner flag. Her powerful, looping pass dropped right to Campbell on the far side of the penalty area, and Campbell headed it back in front of the goal, where Pfankuch volleyed it past Bagshawe.

“I could’ve just stood there and it would’ve hit me on the head, so it was a great ball in,” Campbell said. “They always tell you to head back across goal, and Pfanny was there to redirect it.”

The final goal started with Campbell’s pressure in the back third about 30 minutes into the second half. Colorado pushed forward until Dolinsky crossed to Pfankuch from the right wing. Pfankuch headed the ball down and in, and the result was secure.

LOSING STREAK SNAPPED: The victory marked the first time the Force has ever beaten the Whitecaps — in 18 tries. Vancouver entered the game with a 15-0-2 record against the Force.

WOMEN OF THE MATCH: The Force picked Pfankuch. But I thought the key to the victory was the relentless work of the Energy Triplets: Marshall, Campbell and Pfankuch. Their engines run on some kind of synthetic motor oil that never shuts down.

CLEAN SHEET: Goalkeeper Maria Del Guercio changed the face of the game with a huge stop five minutes into the match. Kirsteen Buchan headed a cross from the right wing straight for the back of the net, but Del Guercio leaped to her left to make the save, keeping her team in position to score first. Del Guercio made three saves for the shutout, the Force’s third of the season.

BEST SAVE NOT BY A GOALKEEPER: Maggie Doe’s header in the 87th minute cleared a sure goal off the line after a Vancouver corner kick.

ATTENDANCE: The Force estimated the crowd size at about 1,000. It appeared to be the biggest crowd of the season, and the fans got to see the Force’s most complete performance of the home slate.

FORCE STARTERS: Del Guercio, Smunt, Peetz, Johnson, Avner, Dolinsky, Marshall, Kosena, Campbell, Pfankuch, Lisa Franke.

WHITECAPS STARTERS: Bagshawe, Qually, Randee Hermus, Eden Hingwing, Rachael Pelat, Katie Thorlakson, Monica Lam-Feist, Amy Vermeulen, Chelsea Buckland, Kirsteen Buchan, Julie Armstrong.

blockquote-tiny-georgie-mug George Tanner is a former writer and editor for the Rocky Mountain News; the Greeley Tribune; The Daily Independent of Ridgecrest, Calif.; the Durango Herald; and the Boulder Daily Camera. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado and an associate professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver. E-mail him at [email protected].

To advertise on Colorado Soccer Now, e-mail George at [email protected].

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