Women's Soccer News: WPSL Big Sky North and South Conference Titles Decided
FC Dallas and Salt Lake United Earn Tickets to Playoffs
Two clubs with Major League Soccer (MLS) affiliations snagged conference titles Friday night in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), and their attentions will turn to the playoffs after wrapping up their regular-season campaigns this weekend.
FC Dallas (11-1-0), with perhaps the deepest and most talented roster in the 70-plus-team, nationwide WPSL, clinched the Big Sky South championship with a 4-0 romp over at Fort Worth Panthers at TCU.
Salt Lake United (6-0-1) claimed the Big Sky North title with a 2-2 draw against Phoenix Del Sol in Arizona.
Oklahoma FC (9-1-2) nailed down second place in the Big Sky South with a 3-1 victory against Tulsa Spirit and will be home for next week's conference playoff opener against either American Eagles or Houston South Select. The winner of that game, to be played Wednesday or Thursday, will play FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas, next Saturday for a berth in the July 28-29 WPSL final four. FC Dallas wrapped up a playoff berth a week ago.
Salt Lake United, which is affiliated with MLS power Real Salt Lake, advances to the Western regional final four next weekend in San Diego, joining the San Diego SeaLions and the winners in the Northwest and Pacific North conferences.
Tulsa Spirit was one of three teams eliminated from the playoff chase Friday. Seattle's Emerald City FC dropped out of the Northwest Conference race with a 1-0 loss at Spokane Shine, and defending Pacific North champ Bay Area Breeze was ousted with a 1-0 loss to North Bay FC Wave. The Shine then routed Oregon Rush, 6-0, on Saturday to pull two points ahead in the Northwest, and Issaquah Soccer Club will need to beat Emerald City on Sunday to claim the title.
Salt Lake United rallied twice against Phoenix Del Sol, with former Metro State standout Kira Sharp scoring the decisive goal early in the second half. Former University of Utah forward Erin Dalley scored their first goal.
“We're really happy and excited we were able to win the division ...,” said Salt Lake United assistant coach John Ragsdale. “This is our fifth year together, so we've developed year by year, gotten stronger and stronger, and the partnership with Real Salt Lake this year has allowed us to really come together and play the soccer we're striving for.”
FC Dallas, which is part of the MLS club's youth set-up, has been dominant – no surprise, given its roster. The first two goals against Fort Worth came from Mexican national-teamers Monica Alvarado, who played at TCU, and Alina Garciamendez, who helped Stanford to the NCAA women's title last December. Michelle Young, a University of North Texas star who leads FC Dallas with 10 goals, and the University of Texas' Hannah Higgins also tallied.
Also on the roster are Women's Professional Soccer and U.S. national team veterans Casey Nogueira, who came to the club because she's engaged to FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd; Kerri Hanks, who won two Hermann Trophies as college soccer's best player while at Notre Dame; and youth national team stars Rachel Shipley and Cydne Currie, both from Texas A&M.
Winning the Big Sky South is just one step for FC Dallas, which would love a chance to knock off Oklahoma FC next weekend. Oklahoma is the only team to beat Dallas, a 4-2 decision at the end of June. There's a bigger goal beyond that, too.
“We have some players I would say are outstanding players, and then we have players who get in there and do the hard work, the grunt work,” FC Dallas coach Darrin Hedges said. “We play to win the game, and our goal is to make it to [the national final four]. Once we get there, we'll take care of it from there. That's our second season.
“If we're fortunate enough to get there, we'll look to claim the title.”
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