Soccer News: WPSL-NORTHWEST: FINAL WEEKEND
Issaquah Soccer Club this week survived a bloody first meeting with neighboring Emerald City FC. Showdown No. 2 promises to be even more intense.
The Northwest Conference title in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) is on the line this weekend, with three clubs in the running for the lone playoff berth and two head-on encounters set to determine the winner.
It's going to come down to Sunday night's battle at Issaquah High School between the first-year teams from Seattle and a eastern suburb, who in no time at all have created a nice little rivalry.
The Spokane Shine (4-2-2, 14 points) also are in the mix, and if they can beat visiting Emerald City (3-0-5, 14 points) on Friday night, triumph Saturday over winless Oregon Rush could be enough to push them through.
“It's nice that of the other teams still in contention, we are playing them,” Emerald City head coach Niki Taylor said. “We are in control of our own destiny.”
Issaquah (5-1-3, 18 points), too, is in command of its path. Win the finale, and it's off to San Diego to next week's Western final four against the host SeaLions and the champions in the Pacific-North and Big Sky North conferences, both to be determined this weekend.
“My team is going into it with [the thought that] this is must-win, and that's what we're focused on doing,” said Issaquah head coach Erin Redwine, who will know exactly what is needed after Friday's and Saturday's results. “It's definitely not going to be easy. Emerald City is a good team, really quality players and very strong. We're respecting them for sure, 100 percent.”
Some of the players from Emerald City, which was founded in 1979, and Issaquah have battled in the youth ranks, and proximity and the quality of the soccer this year has made for a real derby.
“I think any time you have another team that's in your neighborhood, that's in your conference, there's always a natural rivalry that develops,” Taylor said. “But the other night was the first time we've ever played [in the WPSL].”
Wednesday's game was a tight affair, played out at Interbay Stadium in Seattle, with Shawna Anderson giving Issaquah an early lead and Megan Chapin quickly equalizing for Emerald City, which hit the crossbar twice and also hit a post.
The game lost rhythm after two second-half delays following injuries to two Issaquah goalkeepers. Alyssa Beauchamp was bloodied by a shot to the face; she might be able to return for Sunday's game. Her replacement, Alexa Hughes, suffered a broken ankle.
Spokane (4-2-2) sits fourth in the Northwest, even on points but behind on the tiebreaker with defending conference champion Portland Rain (4-3-2), which cannot catch Issaquah.
The Shine handed Issaquah its only loss, a 1-0 decision in mid-June, and claimed a point with a scoreless draw in their road game against Emerald City. They're solid defensively and have shut out four of their last five foes, but scoring has been an issue: only nine goals in eight games, five of them in the first meeting with the Oregon Rush.
Issaquah has conceded just four goals behind Welsh national-teamer Erin Vaughan -- “I've never coached a player who's as consistent and remarkable as her,” Redwine says -- and left back Mary Hill, from Seattle University. The attack relies on Trinidad & Tobago national-teamers Kennya Cordner (seven goals), whom Redwine calls the fastest player in the conference, and Maylee Attin-Johnson, then midfield anchor.
Emerald City, too, is well-rounded. The go-to players: Chapin, from Western Washington University, has seven goals to lead the attack; Casey Berrier, a ballwinning midfielder; center back Stine Schoening and midfielder Faustine Dufka, both from the University of Washington; and holding midfielder Kate Bennett, from the University of California.
How it all will fall is anyone's guess.
“It's hard to say,” Taylor said. “I feel like absolutely anything can happen. I know the Spokane match will be tight, and I know if they beat us, they're in a good position to get another three points from the Oregon Rush. Issaquah again is going to be a close match. Any of the three teams could come out as conference champion.”