If Breakers fans experienced a touch of deja vu last week against Houston, they certainly felt the same way on Sunday. Rising striker Katie Schoepfer collected an early tally, and offered a glimpse of hope for her struggling Breakers side, though her goal represented just one of 9 shots that found the net in Portland--and only three of those shots arrived off the foot of a Breakers player.
In the early stages, Portland pushed forward with pace, nearly bagging a go-ahead goal when Allie Long extend for a diving header that glanced off the far post. The Breakers quickly countered, sending Jazmine Reeves down the right flank and into the box. Portland partially deflected her trailing pass against the grain, a touch that fell directly to Schoepfer. Continuing her goal-scoring run, Schoepfer rifled a shot inside the far post, emphatically giving the Breakers a 1-0 lead.
But in typical fashion, Portland fired back. Weaving her way into the box, U.S. International Alex Morgan took a central touch, only to be violently taken down by Bianca Sierra. Long stepped up to take the penalty and slotted her shot just past Naeher's outstretched arm, tying the match at one.
Not to be outdone, the Breakers continued to press forward. Midfielder Nikki Washington chased a loose bounding ball in the back, beat onrushing goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, and took a soft touch into the the net for a 2-1 advantage.
Moments later, Portland delivered once again, providing national fans with a first-half spectacle. Continuing to push forward in numbers, the Thorns broke into the box and played a series of small-sided passes. The ball eventually fell onto the foot of Veronica Boquete, who played Canadian International Christine Sinclair into space. Sinclair slotted a patient shot home, drawing the teams level once again.
Even at two and stuck in the middle of an end-to-end match, the Breakers and Thorns each added a tally before the break. Boston struck first, when Lianne Sanderson ripped a shot off a Portland defender in the box. The official immediately pointed to the spot, granting a penalty kick for a deliberate hand ball. O'Reilly stepped up and buried a perfectly-placed PK past a fully-extended Angerer.
Three minutes later, Portland equalized once again. Chasing the run of play on the left side, Breakers midfielder Kristie Mewis engaged in a physical challenge and immediately hit the ground, enabling Portland to break through in numbers. Morgan eventually found Sinclair with space, who beat Naeher for the sixth goal in just 42 minutes of soccer.
When the halftime whistle finally blew, both sides entered the tunnel in desperate need of a defensive overhaul. Unfortunately for the Breakers, the collapse continued.
Less than a full minute into the second frame, the Thorns continued to complete small passes in the box. The ever-dangerous Morgan found Sinclair once again, who beat Naeher for the 4-3 lead. Six minutes later, Portland burned the Breakers with a fifth tally, a goal that proved insurmountable. On the counter, Morgan strode forward with ease, dashed through the Breakers back line and slotted her shot past Naeher. The box-to-box match favored the defending champs, and they never looked back.
In the 63rd minute, the Breakers vied for a fourth goal, when Heather O'Reilly curled a gorgeous cross into the box and onto Jazmine Reeves uncontested foot. With space, Reeves hit a first-time shot, though her strike found the chest of a waiting Angerer.
For the remaining 30 minutes, the Breakers put together a handful of half-chances, though Tom Durkin's side looked utterly deflated. In the 88th minute, Jessica McDonald added insult to injury, scoring on an outstanding individual effort. Down the right flank, McDonald took on Bianca Sierra, slotted the ball between her legs, regained possession and beat Naeher to the far post.
For the fourth match in a row, the Breakers equalized, only to turn around and surrender not one, or two, but six goals en route to a 6-3 defeat. Durkin's squad did show signs of hope--Mewis looked more active offensively than she has all season--though her inability to close defensively hurt the Breakers in a big way. In need of a defensive savior not named Alyssa Naeher, the Breakers have six games left to regain any semblance of confidence. They have a lot of work to do.
The Breakers complete their seven-game road trip by visiting Western New York. Match kicks off on Friday at 7:30 PM.