NEWS
07/27/2011 03:33 EDT | Updated 09/26/2011 05:12 EDT

Helping Whitecaps win W-league crown would help ease World Cup pain for Kyle

BURNABY, B.C. - Winning a W-League soccer title won't make Kaylyn Kyle forget the frustration of Canada's performance at the recent women's World Cup, but it might help ease some of the pain.

The tall midfielder from Saskatoon will be part of the Vancouver Whitecaps team that will face the Atlanta Silverbacks Friday in one semifinal of the W-League championship at Tukwila, Wash.

BURNABY, B.C. - Winning a W-League soccer title won't make Kaylyn Kyle forget the frustration of Canada's performance at the recent women's World Cup, but it might help ease some of the pain.

The tall midfielder from Saskatoon will be part of the Vancouver Whitecaps team that will face the Atlanta Silverbacks Friday in one semifinal of the W-League championship at Tukwila, Wash.

The other game will have the top-ranked Ottawa Fury play the host Seattle Sounders. The final will be Sunday.

Kyle was a member of Canada's national team that saw a wave of expectations crash in disappointment at the World Cup in Germany.

"That's going to be a sore spot with me for the rest of my career," the 22-year-old said Wednesday, after the Whitecaps practised at Simon Fraser University. "It's heartbreaking to go into a tournament and have high expectations and come out with one goal and zero wins.

"You grow from those experiences. Those are what make you a better player. You have to live and learn and move on.''

National team coach Carolina Morace resigned in wake of the tournament. That has left the Canadian Soccer Association scrambling to find a replacement before the start of the Olympic qualifying tournament, which will be held in January in Vancouver.

Kyle said Morace's resignation came as a shock. The Italian coach sent an email to her players explaining her reasons, but Kyle didn't want to give details.

"That's between us and her,'' she said. "We'd like to keep it that way, just out of respect.

"She's a great coach, a phenomenal person on and off the field. She really changed my style of play and how I look at soccer."

Kyle played for the Whitecaps last season, when they were beaten 3-1 by the Buffalo Flash in the 2010 championship. She rejoined the team after the World Cup and scored a goal in Vancouver's 4-3 win over the Santa Clarita Blue Heat in the Western Conference playoff final.

"I'm extremely lucky the organization even brought me back,'' she said. "I've always wanted to win a championship here in Vancouver.''

Kyle admitted to some nerves over joining the Whitecaps for the playoffs.

"I'm the kind of player I want someone to work for their starting position,'' she said. "I wasn't training here all season. I wasn't fighting every game. These girls were.

"The team has been open-armed to me. That's kind of nice not coming in and (having) people hate you because you're taking a spot. That goes to show this team wants to win.''

This will be Vancouver's seventh trip to the W-League Championship, with the Whitecaps winning the title in 2004 and 2006.

This year's team has been completely rebuilt. Head coach Hubert Busby Jr. had just one starter return from the side that lost in last year's final.

"This team has a whole new identity,'' said Busby, who has been nominated as the W-League's coach of the year, an award he won last season.

Busby said the team plays a "swashbuckling style'' that can give the coaching staff heart attacks but resulted a 8-2-4 record, and 27 goals scored.

It's the type of game midfielder Tiffany Weimer likes to play.

"We are probably one of the best attacking teams in the country," said Weimer, who was named to the W-League's All-League Team.

"We've had some problems the past few games letting in goals, but we have proven able to come back every time. We are dangerous up front. That's what is going to get us the championship."

One of the Whitecaps offensive threats is Sydney Leroux. The 21-year-old forward from Surrey, B.C., scored 11 goals and added two assists and has been nominated as rookie of the year.

"I had a little bit of a struggle for a couple of games, but then I got back into it," said Leroux. "Since then it's been smooth sailing."

The Whitecaps finished second in the Western Conference behind Santa Clarita who were 8-1-5.

The powerful Fury head into the tournament the top seed after a perfect 12-0-0 season. Ottawa notched a league-high 43 goals while allowing just five goals.

Forward Mallory Outerbridge scored a league-leading 17 goals and joins defenders Amanda Fancher and midfielder Jessica Shufelt on the all-league team.

Atlanta finished the season with a 9-1-0 record while Seattle was 5-5-4.

Busby admits he knows little about Atlanta.

"They are going to be a big, strong team,'' he said. "Very athletic, very competitive. This might be one of those games that comes down to set plays and the ability of us to win the one-on-one battles.''

The overhaul in roster means this year's Whitecaps can take fresh hopes into this year's championship without being saddled by the memories of last year's loss.

"This is a differently group,'' said Busby. "They can't take that burden on from what happened last year.