EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The race for the West Conference crown in United Women’s Soccer (UWS) has come down to the final weekend of the season. Although it can certainly be nerve-wracking for the teams involved, it doesn’t get more exciting for fans, pundits and neutral observers alike. Three teams are still in the race: first-place Real Salt Lake Women (4-2-2), second-place Santa Clarita Blue Heat (3-1-3) and the Houston Aces (3-3). RSL has completed their regular season and await this weekend’s results.
Santa Clarita must win their final regular season on Friday night at home to move into first-place. If that happens, the Blue Heat than have to wait out the results from Houston, as with two wins this weekend, the Aces will tie Santa Clarita in the final standings. If those two teams are tied, the West title will go to the official league tiebreak procedure, and Houston will capture the crown as they own the second round of tiebreakers (total wins). If both teams do not win on Friday, RSL will be the 2016 West champions.
FRIDAY, JULY 15
Houston Aces vs. Colorado Storm (7:00 PM CDT)
Venue: Houston Sports Park
12131 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77045
Its been a very exciting season in the UWS West, and the Houston Aces and Colorado Storm (1-4-2) have been right in the middle of all the drama. From first to last, top to bottom, any team can win any game. While the Aces are still in the race for the West title - especially after a disappointing start to 2016 - the Storm already have the advantage over Houston this season as they notched their lone victory at their expense.
On June 10th at 5 Star Stadium, the Aces were looking to start their two-game road trip to Colorado with a positive result. The Storm had other ideas in mind, as they struck for the first two goals and weathered a late Houston rally in the 2-1 win. Isobel Dalton started the scoring in the 21st minute on an assist from Olivia Blaber and would than assist Blaber’s eventual game-winning goal in the 81st minute. Two minutes later, the Aces got a penalty kick and Colombian international midfielder Isabella Echeverri Restrepo scored on the spot kick for the final score.
Simply put, Houston has to win their rematch against the Storm on Friday night. Its their only path towards winning the West title. If they don’t win, the only thing left to fight for is possibly a second-place finish. For the Storm, a positive result will bring about a satisfying conclusion to their 2016 campaign. In seven games played, they only have a minus-6 goal differential - which shows how competitive they have been in the inaugural season of the West Conference.
Santa Clarita Blue Heat vs. Colorado Pride (6:00 PM PDT)
Venue: The Master’s College
21726 Placerita Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
The second of Friday’s two huge matches in the UWS West will be the rubber match of a home-and-home doubleheader between the Santa Clarita Blue Heat and Colorado Pride. The two teams just faced off this past Sunday afternoon, battling out to a 2-2 draw at Colorado College’s Washburn Field. For the first time in their three-year existence, the Pride will not qualify for the postseason. But they can still play the role of spoiler while also making a late run for a second-place finish in their first UWS season.
A win last Sunday would’ve kept the Pride in the West race, and things looked promising as they came out with high pressure and took the lead 10 minutes in on Kaitlyn Johnson’s goal. But the Blue Heat scored twice in the first half: in the 19th minute, when Kodi Lavrusky got behind the Pride defense on a pass from Julia Hernandez; and in the 33rd minute on Arielle Roy-Petitclerc’s goal. The Pride knew they had to win to stay in the hunt and got the equalizer in the 64th minute. Lexi Long drew a penalty kick and Julia Moore converted from the spot.
For Santa Clarita, a second win on their Colorado road trip last weekend would’ve put them in pole position for the West title. They would’ve been tied for first with RSL and also owned the first tiebreak over them (head-to-head). But the result that has potentially done them the most damage this season is their 4-3 home loss to Houston on June 18th. A positive result in that match would’ve ended the Aces’ title challenge.
SUNDAY, JULY 17
Houston Aces vs. Colorado Pride (7:00 PM CDT)
Venue: Houston Sports Park
12131 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77045
The tenor of Sunday night’s match between the Houston Aces and Colorado Pride will be tuned to proper pitch on Friday night. Wins for both teams on Friday will up the ante in the West title race to “Ocean Eleven” proportions by the time of Sunday’s kickoff. Maybe not to the level in dollars stolen, but most definitely in importance to their respective seasons. If they’re victorious on Friday, Houston will compete for the conference crown on Sunday while the Pride can finish 2016 in second-place.
That may sound like small concession for the Colorado Springs-based team, but they finished in that spot during their two successful years in the now-defunct W-League and made it to the National Final in 2015. For the Aces, an opportunity to win the West after a harsh introduction to the conference will be an experience that only few can relate to. But if the Colorado Storm play their own role as spoiler on Friday, second-place could be possibly up for grabs on Sunday and it will be interesting to see which team makes the run for it, if so.
In their first match this season, Houston began their run for the West title against the Pride on June 12. After a three-hour delay to the start of the match due to severe thunderstorms, the Aces applied a suffocating defense that repeatedly thwarted Pride scoring opportunities. The visitors needed only one good scoring chance and they took it in the 29th minute when Colombian international Tatiana Ariza drilled a ball into the side netting from 25 yards out. That loss was the first of three straight for the Pride.
About United Women’s Soccer (UWS): UWS is a national women’s soccer league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer through the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA). UWS is a professionally operated league created for teams that meet high minimum standards. The season runs from May until the end of July, culminating in a National Championship match. The UWS player pool is comprised of college players, aspiring & former professionals and international stars. You can follow UWS on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
UWS is managed by EDP, a leading soccer management company that runs a number of leagues and tournaments. In addition to UWS, EDP operates youth leagues that includes an NPL league, the EDP Super Club program, the EDP Premier League and the EDP Championship League. EDP also runs EDP Futures programs for U-7’s to U-12’s and it conducts more than 20 youth tournaments, including tournaments within its EDP Cup Series and EDP Showcase Series.
Media can contact UWS Director of Communications Jorma Kansanen by e-mail at Press@UWSSoccer.com. You can visit the league’s official website at UWSSoccer.com. Interested team applicants can contact League Commissioner Joe Ferrara by e-mail at Joe@UWSSoccer.com.