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Cougars blow out Whitecaps in finale

July 19, 2009 | 10:00 pm 1
By George Tanner

almostheader300Second-half substitute Brianna Pugh scored two goals, helping the Real Colorado Cougars turn a 1-0 halftime lead into a 4-1 blowout against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon in Highlands Ranch.

The first half was sluggish because of the afternoon heat, and most of the action was in the middle of the field. Coach Brian Haynes’ decision to add Pugh’s dazzling speed to the mix paid off almost immediately.

She had two scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of the half, and she hit the jackpot in the 60th. Streaking down the right wing, Pugh turned on the afterburners and blew past Whitecaps defender Kim McMullen. Pugh shot from an acute angle, and Vancouver goalkeeper Stephanie Panozzo couldn’t get a hand on the ball.

It was Pugh’s first goal with the Cougars.

“I took it up the line and was looking for a serve, but I just hit it really hard, hoping that it went in,” Pugh said. “And it did.” 

Pugh finished the scoring about three minutes before the final whistle, but this time it wasn’t because of her speed. She was in the right place at the right time. Kerstyn Farrell smashed a Vanessa Mais corner kick toward the Vancouver goal, but Farrell’s shot was blocked. The ball ricocheted to Pugh, and she spanked it past Panozzo.

Pugh’s presence on the Cougars’ roster was a midseason revelation.

She began the spring on a Real Colorado youth team and was invited to join the Cougars in midseason. She didn’t know if she’d get much playing time in W-League games, but her pace presents so many problems for defenses that it was difficult for the Cougars’ coaching staff to keep her on the bench.

“I know the coaches, and they asked me to come in,” Pugh said. “I wasn’t expecting to play, but I did.” 

Haynes said he was happy to find playing time for Pugh and his younger players in Real Colorado’s season finale.

“We weren’t going to make the playoffs if we won, lost or tied this game, but (the players) came with the attitude that we’ve got to win,” Haynes said. “They did what they had to do; they closed the game out early enough. So even though Vancouver was fighting, we had the upper hand. It’s a good way to end the season for us.”

The Cougars improved to 4-5-3 overall, good for 15 points and a tie for third place with Seattle in the league’s Western Conference, but just out of the playoffs.

Vancouver finished the season at 3-4-5, in fifth place with 14 points. The Whitecaps lost two three-goal decisions in their trip to Colorado, but the team was missing starters Carmelina Moscato, Jodi-Ann Robinson, Chelsea Stewart and Shannon Woeller because of call-ups to the Canadian national team. Robinson, with seven goals, was the leading the scorer for the Whitecaps.

The undefeated Pali Blues won the Western Conference with 30 points, and the Colorado Force finished in second place with 18 points. Haynes said a deep bench was the key to the Blues and Force advancing.

“When we went to Vancouver and Seattle, we didn’t have our national-team players. We didn’t have a lot of players for that trip. If we’d gotten a win out there, that would’ve changed everything. This game would’ve meant something,” he said. “What we need to have is a roster in place that we can depend on even when players are gone. That didn’t happen all the time, and that’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”

Real Colorado got its other goals from Kellyn Farrell and Jenna Owens, who had the only goal of the first half.

Striker Ameera Abdulla made an inspired run up the left wing, darting in and out of defenders, and she unleashed a hard shot toward the far post. Panozzo lunged to her left and stopped the shot with both palms, but she couldn’t control the ball. Owens was Jenna-on-the-spot, pounding in the rebound with certainty.

In the 49th minute, Kellyn Farrell blew past the left side of the Vancouver defense and fired a sharp-angle shot into the side netting on the far side. It was Farrell’s fourth goal of the season.

Kate Qually scored Vancouver’s goal, banging home a Chelsea Buckland centering pass when Real Colorado was up 3-0.

WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Pugh. She used her wheels to turn a match that was stuck in the mud into a drag race. And she turned in this impressive performance in only 45 minutes on the pitch. She came in at start of the second half for Taryn Hemmings, who was icing her right hamstring on the bench. Abdullah dropped back into midfield, and Pugh played up front. 

WHITECAPS’ WOMAN OF THE MATCH: Defender Randee Hermus turned in a sturdy performance at center back. She was active on both ends of the field, missing a goal just wide on a header just before the hour mark that would’ve made the score 2-1. She and Katie Thorlakson, a midfielder who pushed forward with zeal, were the two best players the Whitecaps brought to Colorado. 

TACKLE OF THE GAME: Vancouver’s Eden Hingwing upended Owens in the 53rd minute, backside over teakettle.

SAVE OF THE GAME: Cougars keeper Brianne Schultz gets the nod for a stop she made in first-half extra time. Thorlakson sent a free kick to Hermus, who had pushed way forward. Hermus headed the ball high and on target, forcing Schultz to leap and tap the ball up and into the crossbar. She also denied Hermus on a Thorlakson corner kick in the fifth minute and made a clutch stop on Qually in the 45th minute. Schultz registered four saves in the game. 

WEATHER MATTERS: The game started under overcast skies, but the clouds gave way to sun and heat by halftime. A nearby outdoor thermometer read 94 degrees at the end of the match.

Q: WHAT DOES A CANADIAN TEAM DO ON ITS OFF DAY IN COLORADO? A: It goes to the mall, of course! And to Cracker Barrel and the Cheesecake Factory. British Columbia is full of outdoorsy goodness, so why not enjoy the consumer comforts of Colorado, eh?

PICTURED ABOVE: Cougars midfielder Beth West heads the ball over Vancouver’s Amy Vermuelen. (photo by Tom Auclair/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

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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One Comment »

  • soccer goals said:

    I hope that the Cougars do well.

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