Ladies and gentleman, the Breakers have finally arrived.
After a painstaking 1-6-0 debut left the Breakers in the NWSL basement--and in desperate search of an escape--Head Coach Tom Durkin made a drastic change. In return, he received a drastic result.
Durkin's midweek lineup featured a pair of rookies, including midfielder Jazmine Reeves and forward Nkem Ezurike, though supporters immediately focused on the five players not listed in the Starting XI: U.S. Internationals Heather O'Reilly and Kristie Mewis, British International Lianne Sanderson, rookie standout Mollie Pathman, veteran forward Katie Schoepfer and familiar midfielder Joanna Lohman, who missed the match due to an undisclosed suspension. In the end, supporters forgot about Durkin's surprise absentees--and focused on the breakout performance of his fully-loaded bench.
From the very first touch of Wednesday's east-west showdown, the Breakers took control of the match's tempo. Their early action paid immediate dividends, as Reeves created a brilliant opportunity in the 2nd minute of play. The rookie took a deep run onto the right side of the box, slotted a daunting cross onto the far post, and found a waiting Ezurike with time and space. A clean tap-in gave the Breakers an emphatic 1-0 lead, causing a raucous celebration at Harvard Stadium.
For the ensuing 20 minutes, the Breakers continued to push forward with pace, with Reeves and Ezurike nearly combining for a second goal. In the 25th minute, Reeves punished the Thorns yet again, though this time she found herself on the end of a skillful set-up by Courtney Jones. After beating a pair of defenders and charging toward the danger area, Jones ripped a shot on frame. Thorns 'keeper Nadine Angerer spilled the rebound in front of goal, only to have Reeves rush into the box and confidently finish the loose ball. With three quarters of the match still in front on them, the Breakers broke into yet another celebration.
As the first half pressed onward, Portland's attack began to take shape. Stronger build-up, combined with a few dangerous set pieces, slowly began to center the momentum. In the 42nd minute, however, the Thorns surrendered their share for good. A poor touch in the back by defender Kat Tarr left room for Ezurike to make a run at goal. Trying to recover, Tarr dragged down Ezurike, drawing an immediate red card from the center official.
Three minutes later, the Breakers found the net once more. With a full head of steam, Jones marched down the center of the park and played a perfectly-paced through ball onto Reeves' foot. The rookie took a touch toward the middle of the field, entered the box, and deftly chipped a charging Angerer for a 3-0 advantage.
In the second half, the Breakers refused to slow down, collecting a season-high fourth goal in front of a supportive home crowd. In the 59th minute, Reeves put a permanent stamp on the match, when she calmly collected a lofting cross from midfielder Maddie Evans on the right side of the box. A creative touch left Reeves open with space, and the rookie failed to disappoint. Reeves finessed a briliant shot into the side netting, delivering a stunning 4-0 advantage in the second frame.
Just moments later, the Thorns found their first tally of the match, when Canadian International Christine Sinclair drove a low shot past Naeher and inside the far post. Her strike, which came from well outside the box, offered a glimpse of hope for the defending champs, though the new-look Breakers proved far too strong.
In the 90th minute, standout substitutes O'Reilly and Sanderson nearly linked up for a fifth goal, an ironic development during an unforeseen victory. In the end, their impact made little difference, as their fellow reserves delivered an attacking clinic at Harvard Stadium. Three goals and an assist from Reeves, combined with a 2nd minute tally from rookie Ezurike, set the stage for a midweek stunner.
Suddenly, Durkin's international players have big shoes to fill.
The Breakers will brace for a weekend matchup with the Washington Spirit. Match kicks off at 6:30 PM on Sunday, June 1. To buy tickets, visit BreakersTickets.com.
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