'Caps on edge of greatness

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Vancouver Whitecaps are two home victories away from becoming W-League soccer champions after winning 11 games and tying once during 2006's regular season.

But they won't train together for the rest of this month and won't play again until Aug. 4 when the final four begins at Swangard Stadium.

Whitecaps temporarily disbanded July 6 after their 8-0 regular season finale win over the Real Colorado Cougars at Swangard. Players attached to Canada's World Cup and under-20 teams departed for training camps and international friendlies, leaving a group of players with the reserve team.

"It was good to have the core players around for a few weeks and finally get into a rhythm," said Whitecaps' head coach Bob Birarda, also an assistant with the national under-20 team.

Christine Sinclair, Andrea Neil and Erin McLeod lead Canada's senior team against Sweden July 18 in Minnesota and the U.S. July 30 in North Carolina to prepare for this November's regional 2007 Women's World Cup qualifier.

The under-20s, led by Sophie Schmidt and Jodi-Ann Robinson, meet China for a second time in PG tonight and play twice against Mexico in Kamloops on July 18 and 21. They're headed to Russia next month for the world championship.

Whitecaps put an exclamation point on the regular season against the Cougars with three goals in seven minutes. Erin Ramsay had a pair, while Stephanie Smith, Randee Hermus and Kirsteen Buchan had singles. Christine Sinclair had a late second half hat trick during an eight-minute span, finishing in a tie with Tiffeny Milbrett for goals (9) and assists (4).

"We were trying to motivate Sinclair to score more goals than Milbrett did," Birarda said.

Whitecaps didn't need Sinclair's goals to beat Colorado, but they could be useful to determine final four matchups against the next best in the West and the champs of east and central conferences.

"One of the tiebreakers for rankings going into the final four is going to be your goal difference," Sinclair said. "It's not like we wanted to absolutely kill them, but we haven't really scored too many goals this year."


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