With a United Soccer Leagues W-League (women’s) championship in their sights, one member of the Vancouver Whitecaps hopes that Penticton can be part of this year’s push.
Dan Lenarduzzi, director of soccer development for the club, wants Penticton be part of the championship chase as they will host a league game between the Whitecaps and Santa Clarita (California) Blue Heat on July 8.
Last year the Whitecaps lost in the W-League title game 3-1 to the Buffalo Flash. Lenarduzzi was at Penticton’s King’s Park on Wednesday for the announcement of the match, which will be the second-last game of the season for the Whitecaps.
“They are really excited,” said Lenarduzzi of the players, who will play in seven communities in the province. “This is the only game outside of the Lower Mainland. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the Whitecaps to showcase areas of B.C. They are looking forward to a big crowd being here.”
Manuel Borba, who is involved with the South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association, feels it will attract SOYSA’s largest players base as 40 per cent are female. SOYSA has 2,100 registered kids.
“One area we lack in is female coaches and role models for kids,” said Borba. “I think it’s very important that we bring these role models to Penticton.”
The Whitecaps also plan to put on clinics, including a pre-game one and have half-time mini games. The next day, the Whitecaps intend to have their players work with the female talent from SOYSA.
“The best way to grow soccer is to have them as role models interact with the young girls here in Penticton and across the Okanagan,” said Lenarduzzi.
With SOYSA hosting provincials in Penticton, the Whitecaps see this as an opportunity to bring out the women’s team and play a league game.
“We’re looking forward to partnering with the provincials that are on here at that time but also with the Pinnacles and SOYSA to put a fantastic event on,” he added. More important than that, we want that to be a launching pad for the Whitecaps in the future to partner more with Penticton.”
Lenarduzzi, brother of Bob Lenarduzzi who is president of the Whitecaps men’s team in Major League Soccer, described the relationship between the two as being loose the last couple of years.
With the club joining Major League Soccer, he sees this as a window for the Whitecaps to return to their heydays as being B.C.’s team. It doesn’t hurt that they like Penticton’s facilities.
Penticton mayor Dan Ashton, on hand for the announcement, is pleased to have the teams coming.
“For me it’s unbelievable,” said Ashton, who is pleased with the bond forming between the two groups.
Kickoff will be at King’s Park at 7 p.m. according to the Whitecaps website.
The USL W-League consists of the four divisions and three conferences. The Whitecaps play in the Western Conference against the Colorado Force, Colorado Rush, L.A. Strikers, the Pali Blues (Santa Monica, Cal.), Seattle Sounders, and Victoria Highlanders. The Whitecaps begin league play on May 15 against Victoria.
In the 10 years the Whitecaps have been in the W-League, they won championships
in 2004 and ’06.