It was perhaps the worst defensive breakdown of the season. Not just for Boston, but in the entire league. Boston lost to Portland 5-2, managing not to get shut out through an own goal and a penalty kick.
Portland dominated the game from the beginning. It took about half an hour, but Boston gradually warmed up in the first half and began to respond to the pressure with a few forays into Portland's end of the field.
Portland struck first in the 16' minute, with the Thorns moving the ball quickly around the box until Jodie Taylor had plenty of time and space to square up with the goal and take a power shot that Alyssa Naeher had no chance to save. Boston managed to equalize in the 36' when Stephanie McCaffrey made one of her typically piercing deep runs and sent in a shot that deflected off Kat Williamson for an own goal.
Boston went into halftime tied, but with hope that they could still stay in the game and possibly pull out a win. How cruelly those hopes would be dashed, and so soon.
The second half didn't start as lopsidedly as the first half, but it took just four minutes for McCall Zerboni to score. Allie Long lurked with the ball outside of the box until she saw Zerboni primed to make a run, then popped the ball over the back line for Zerboni to run on and shoot.
The next goal came four minutes later, Zerboni again finishing a ball, this time sent in by Christine Sinclair low and hard across the face of goal. Naeher just managed to deflect it from the foot of an onrushing Mana Shim, but wasn't able to hang on. The ball rolled out to Zerboni, unmarked in the box and free to run in and finish at the far post.
And then the next goal, only two minutes later, this time from Mana Shim who was able to run at the goal with defenders trailing after her. Sinclair, continuing in her role as Portland's maestro for the evening, served a perfect little ball to her feet and Shim popped it far post one-time.
As if three goals in six minutes weren't bad enough, Allie Long nabbed a fifth in the 66' by pouncing on a poor clearance. It didn't help that Long was loitering in the box without any adult supervision.
Boston's other goal of the night was an 87' penalty kick taken by Kristie Mewis, who finished it calmly. But it was far too little too late.
Boston managed a few stretches of pressure here and there. To their credit, their effort wasn't totally diminished by the barrage of Portland goals. They continued to try to push forward when they could. But they were outmatched in possession and passing, too often caught scrambling to cover a player in a red jersey, leaving gaps in the defense that the Thorns exploited quite adroitly.
Alyssa Naeher did what she could, several times emerging the winner from one-on-ones and trying to keep her airspace clear with punches and some midair snatch-and-grabs, but with so many shots coming at her from so many different angles, it was inevitable that some would go in. If Naeher had managed to keep the score any lower, it would have been through an inhuman performance that would probably make her a lock for canonization, much less goalkeeper of the year.
The Breakers next face the Washington Spirit in their last home game of the season on Saturday, August 8.