The Pali Blues downed the Quebec City Amiral, 2-0, in the first of Friday’s matches, while the Ottawa Fury got past the DC United Women, 1-0, in the second. The winners will play for the championship on Sunday, while the losers will play for third place.
After three months of play and a weekend of playoffs, the teams gunning for the W-League Championship have been winnowed down from 30 teams total to 11 that made the playoffs to the four that will compete this weekend for the title: the Quebec City Amiral, the Ottawa Fury, the DC United Women, and the Pali Blues. Here’s a closer look at the four teams:
Warning: This is a rant. I plan on having a more serious discussion about the playoffs later, but for now I’m going to vent.
The bottom line is that I’m not terribly impressed with how the playoffs have been done for either the W-League or the WPSL. To say that, I first need to define how to judge playoffs. Here are my criteria:
– The best teams should make the playoffs.
– The difficulty of the path through the playoffs for a team should be in inverse correlation with the success of the team during the regular season, i.e., you do well during the regular season, you’re rewarded with an easier postseason: you play at home, you play lesser opponents, etc.
The scene after Sanderson scored the DC United Women's third goal
The Charlotte Lady Eagles arrived on Sunday with a distinguished pedigree. According to their coach, they’ve made the playoffs 12 of the last 13 years. Despite being in the same division as the defending W-League champion Atlanta Silverbacks, they finished with a superior record, good enough to rank fourth in the entire 30-team league. On Saturday they demolished another division champion, the fifth-ranked Long Island Rough Riders, 4-0.
None of it mattered. The DC United Women took control almost from the opening whistle and, except for a few minutes to start the second half, dominated possession for the entire match. That the result was only 3-0 is more a reflection of the patience of the Black-and-Red attack (and some unfortunate near-misses) than the competitiveness of the match.
Gabby Charno of Long Island (left) battles Charlotte while Lianne Sanderson of the DC United Women (right) faces Virginia Beach
The top two seeds in the W-League’s Eastern Conference advanced easily in their playoff matches today, the #1 DC United Women dominating the #4 Virginia Beach Piranhas, 3-0, and the #2 Charlotte Lady Eagles doing likewise to the #3 Long Island Rough Riders, 4-0.
The DC United Women players at the Meet-the-Team Event
Due to the benighted design of the W-League’s Eastern Conference playoffs, the regular-season champion DC United Women will start off by playing a team they’ve faced three times already. On the one hand, they’ve beaten them two of those three times; on the other, the Piranhas are the only team that’s gotten points off them – a 1-1 draw on June 23, on the very same field where they will line up in the playoffs.
Team captain Anabel Jimenez takes a shot in the first half
The final match of the Maryland Capitols’ inaugural season was plagued with delays, but the home team nevertheless managed to come away with a 2-0 win over the visiting Penn Legacy Inferno, thanks to a considerable extent to a sterling performance in goal by Hanit Schwarz.
The result assured the Capitols of at least a #3 seed in the upcoming Northeast Atlantic Conference playoffs, giving them a first-round match at home.
Becky Sauerbrunn plays for the Black-And-Red in her last match before the Olympics
On one of the hottest evenings in DC history, a season-record 703 fans showed up at the Maryland Soccerplex Stadium to watch the DC United Women play the Dayton Dutch Lions, the last match Becky Sauerbrunn would play on domestic soil before joining the United States Women’s National Team for the upcoming Olympics in London. They would not be disappointed, as the Black-and-Red cruised to a 4-1 victory keyed by a Sauerbrunn goal early in the second half.
Since their conference rivals the Atlanta Silverbacks had played to a tie right as the match started, the win gave the United Women the W-League regular-season Eastern Conference Championship and the right to host the conference playoffs at the Soccerplex on July 21 and 22.
With a win and a little bit of help over the weekend, the Maryland Capitols clinched first place in the South Division of the WPSL’s 16-team Northeast Atlantic Conference. Currently, they are in second place in the conference, which has a six-team playoff, but the final position is still very much up in the air.