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WUSA Flashback: The Past Meets the Present

Tiffeny Milbrett - © 2006 Roberto Bonilla
Tiffeny Milbrett returns to the same field where she played so many WUSA games

Roberto Bonilla

By Phillip Brents

WSPW correspondent

San Diego, Calif.   Remember the WUSA? One of its founding players, Tiffeny Milbrett, returned to a familiar stomping ground — USD’s Torero Stadium — on June 2 when her current team, the high-powered Vancouver Whitecaps, engaged the San Diego Gauchos women’s team in a key Western Conference W-League match.

     Milbrett, a U.S. women’s national team legend who earned honors as the WUSA’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 2001 for the New York Power, drew an assist in the ’Caps 5-0 win in front of a record Gauchose home crowd of 713 fans.

     For those unfamiliar with the WUSA, it stands for Women’s United Soccer Association. The WUSA grew out of the triumph by the United States at the 1999 Women’s World Cup and operated for three seasons — 2001, 2002 and 2003 — before sinking in a sea of red ink. The W-League, which began operations in 1995 as a grassroots national training ground for women, has since inherited the WUSA’s former standing as the top women’s professional soccer league in North America.

     The W-League obviously has kicked it up a level since the WUSA’s demise. Its goal, however, remains the same: provide an appropriate venue to further develop the skill level of players and supply talent at the international level.

     Milbrett, who had a goal and assist in a 3-2 victory at Seattle on May 27, is joined on the Whitecaps roster by Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair, along with 11 members of the Canadian national team.

     Sinclair and Kara Lang led Vancouver with two goals each against the Gauchos while Milbrett set up Martina Franko’s goal in the 40th minute. Lang gave the Whitecaps a 2-0 lead with goals in the 23rd and 38th minutes. Sinclair finished scoring in the game with goals in the 48th and 70th minutes. Lang assisted Sinclair’s first goal while Ciara McCormack drew the assist on the game’s final goal.

     The Gauchos came close to breaking up the Whitecaps’ shutout in the 84th minute but the breakaway shot sailed just inches wide.

       The win boosted the Whitecaps’ record to 4-0-0 and into first place overall among the W-League’s 37 teams (along with a 15-game regular season winning streak). Sinclair (four goals) and Milbrett (three goals, two assists) share the scoring lead for Vancouver, which will host this year’s W-League championship playoff tournament later this summer.

    The Gauchos women entered the June 2 game 0-3-1 following a four-game Colorado road trip to kick off the season. The Gauchos women were missing 10 key players on the road swing, including more than a half-dozen starters. The local side drew 2-2 against the Real Colorado Cougars while suffering 4-1 and 5-1 defeats against Mile High Edge (and former WUSA player Katie Antongivanni) and dropping a 3-2 contest against the Fort Collins Force.

     Kara Kaberllis (University of Wisconsin) leads the Gauchos women in scoring with three goals while Amy Epsten (USD) has two goals and one assist.

     Despite the loss, the Gauchos women’s team is vastly improved from its inaugural 0-14 season when it fielded a lineup primarily comprised of junior college and high school players.

       The Whitecaps, who recorded a 21-8 edge in shots in the June 2 contest, defeated the Gauchos, 11-0, last year as a measuring stick. The Gauchos have already scored six goals this season while allowing 19 in five games. The Gauchos were outscored 44-2 in their first 10 games last year.

     The W-League gives the nation’s best college players the opportunity to play alongside established national and international players while maintaining their college eligibility. The Gauchos appear ready to take the next step forward based on a number of impressive player signings.

 Photo Gallery
 by Roberto Bonilla

Roberto Bonilla


Tiffeny Milbrett

 Tiffeny Milbrett

Gauchos (c) Roberto Bonilla


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