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Breakers 1:2 Portland Thorns FC: Breakers concede late, fall to visiting Portland

Despite an early goal by Lianne Sanderson, the Breakers fell to Portland, surrendering an 86th minute game-winner off the foot of Meleana Shim

Portland forward Alex Morgan embraces Meleana Shim after Shim scored Sunday's game winner
Portland forward Alex Morgan embraces Meleana Shim after Shim scored Sunday's game winner

A 23rd minute equalizer from Alex Morgan jump-started a monumental comeback for the Portland Thorns, who used a last-minute game-winner from Meleana Shim to put away the Breakers, 2-1.

From the opening stretch, Portland found room to combine in the attacking third, continually pressing Boston's back line. Morgan created the match's first goal-scoring opportunity in the 11th minute, when the speedy forward moved down the left flank and into the box before unleashing a near-post shot. Breakers goalkeeper Ashley Phillips smothered the attempt.

In the 13th minute, Boston contributed an opportunity of its own, using a defensive free kick to earn Sunday's first tally. After chasing a lofting pass from Cat Whitehill, Breakers forward Kyah Simon deflected Portland's clearance attempt onto the foot of Lianne Sanderson, who took a touch, entered the box, and slotted a shot past outstretched goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.

For Portland, the early goal did little to shake Sunday's gameplan. Morgan and co. continued to put pressure on Boston's back four, forcing Phillips into a busy first half. In the 16th minute, Shim found herself in open space before stinging a shot toward Phillips' near post, causing a tight reaction save; moments later, forward Christine Sinclair hit a shot from distance that beat Phillips, only to strike the crossbar and ricochet back into play. Morgan again challenged Boston's goalkeeper in the 22nd minute, when the international phenom carried the ball down the left side and placed an optimistic look on frame. Fully stretched to her left side, Phillips parried the shot wide and out of danger.

In the 23rd minute, defender Nikki Marshall played a through ball to Morgan, who sidestepped Phillips' attempt to cut down the angle and calmly placed the ball into an open net.

The second half followed a familiar pace: Portland controlled the attack, while Boston scattered a flurry of half-decent opportunities. Between the 56th and 57th minutes, Morgan again broke through, placing a shot just over the crossbar before forcing Phillips into back-to-back saves in traffic.

Ten minutes later, Breakers forward Sydney Leroux - who scored twice in Boston's last meeting with Portland - earned her first and only opportunity of the match. After chasing a perfectly-paced through ball into the box, Leroux hit a shot from the right side, only to watch LeBlanc stretch to right, parry the attempt wide, and preserve the 1-1 deadlock.

In the 86th minute, Portland finally converted. With space on the right side, Shim tucked a gorgeous shot inside the far post, emphatically ending the Breakers four-game unbeaten streak in front of a sellout crowd at Dilboy Stadium.

Despite a second consecutive standout match by Phillips, the Breakers struggled to push forward, surrendering an early lead - and the fifth position on the table - at home.

Post-Game Conversation

Fresh off a four-game winless streak, Portland forward Alex Morgan commented on her team's ability to step back into the win column. "Everything came together today," she said. "Personally, it felt great to get a goal and an assist, and contribute a little bit more than I have been." During the second half, Morgan's side braved humid conditions to earn the full three points. "We knew we needed to push a little harder at the end; both teams were struggling, and we got the push we needed."

Portland coach Cindy Parlow commented on her team's first-half recovery, attributing a strong start to a complete finish. "We were doing some good stuff before Boston scored...and I was really proud of our response. We didn't let up at all, we didn't put our heads down; we kept battling."

Breakers' forward Lianne Sanderson shrugged off her early goal, instead focusing on Sunday's disheartening result. "I don't care what I do if we don't win...we're very disappointed about this result, and we'll have to take some positives from it."

Captain Cat Whitehill - despite visible disappointment - elected to focus on her team's final push. "This is a disheartening loss, but fortunately were playing a lot of team's ahead of us...we're going to go back, learn a little bit, and turn around quickly."

Breakers' midfielder Heather O'Reilly concluded by echoing her captain. "We were really happy to go up a goal, but today, unfortunately, it wasn't enough. That's sports and that's soccer; we'll come back."

Next Week

The Breakers will visit Washington for a matchup with the Spirit, who currently sit in last on the NWSL table with seven points. Match kicks off at 7:00 p.m.