Starting XI: Abby Smith (Libby Stout, 32'); Julie King, Kassey Kallman, Whitney Engen, Mollie Pathman; McCall Zerboni, Angela Salem (Elise Krieghoff, 86;), Kristie Mewis, Louise Schillgard; Stephanie McCaffrey, Kyah Simon (Katie Schoepfer, 67')
The same fog that crept over Jordan Field as night fell gathered in front of Chicago's goal and mystified Boston's forwards. That's what it felt like, anyway.
The stats bear that out to a certain extent: Boston had 11 shots, but only two shots on goal. Chicago took 16 shots, eight of them SOG. Boston took seven corners to Chicago's eight. Chicago is the team that came away with a goal on a set play.
Boston started off looking a bit disjointed but still dangerous, getting early balls across the face of goal, although no one got on the end of them. There was a scramble of headers in the 15' that somehow resulted in a Chicago clearance. The teams went back and forth, with Abby Smith looking strong in her second start.
Something went wrong 30 minutes in as Abby Smith came out to clear up a ball in the box and landed awkwardly, sustaining a non-contact injury that forced her to sub out in the 32' for Libby Stout. The game got a little choppier after that, though the Breakers continued pressing into the box, eventually resulting in a penalty kick call in the 39' that had Chicago arguing Kristie Mewis had touched the ball with her hand before being fouled.
Regardless, Mewis' PK went off the post, a moment she surely wants back given the final scoreline.
Teams went into the second half at 0-0 and Boston once again traded off with Chicago, pushing back and forth into each other's boxes. Kristie Mewis got the ball with her back to goal in the 51' and managed to turn, but was faced with a sea of traffic that ultimately deflected her shot.
Chicago got a corner kick in the 60', a low ball into the box that Christen Press beautifully one-timed on the bounce into the upper 90.
Beard's two subs, Katie Schoepfer for Kyah Simon in the 67' and Elise Krieghoff for Angela Salem in the 87', were both attempts to spark the offense, and they both worked for a little while. The Breakers had a few more big chances that probably had fans pulling their hair and exclaiming "How?!" to each other, including a stoppage time mess in the 18 in which Alyssa Naeher (remember her?) had to come off her line and slide into Kristie Mewis' own sliding attempt on a loose ball.
Final score: 1-0 to Chicago.
It's not that Boston was bad all game. Their defense is capable of absorbing attacks and Whitney Engen and Kassey Kallman are working out a decent system back there. Julie King and Mollie Pathman are both working hard to push high in overlapping runs and create width. Louise Schillgard is looking more and more solid out there and interchanging with an indefatigable Kyah Simon just like head coach Matt Beard wants.
But some things fell flat. Stephanie McCaffrey was not as involved as she needed to be and probably should've gotten on the end of a few more balls. Kristie Mewis, while working hard as a midfield engine, also missed a lot of opportunities with Julie King floating wide open on the right, ready to send in an easy cross. The early forced substitution of Abby Smith certainly didn't help things.
"Obviously Kristie hits the post on the penalty," said Beard after the game. "The chance at the end with her header hits the back of I think Julie Johnston's head. So that just sort of sums up our sort of luck in front of goal. But the thing for me is that we're working within our performances. I mean, again we've lost to a set play. It's a great strike from Christen Press, it's worthy of winning any game, but I said to the players at the end, as much as it hurts with the result tonight we have to remain positive. Now we've got to start finding a way of winning games because we're creating good goal scoring opportunities and for whatever reason they're not going the back of the net for us."
Julie King was more direct in her analysis of the game and the Breakers' season so far and was clearly disappointed at the post game press conference, her voice coming close to breaking a few times. "At the end of the day we just gotta score goals," she said. "Unfortunately I feel like we had a lot of opportunities that we didn't finish but so far that's kind of the story of our season. We just gotta get better at the details and go that extra inch. Same defensively. There's a reason we're being scored on on set plays. It's just a lack in that mindset. I think it's the same thing on the other side of the ball . It's just that extra step, that extra inch, that extra jump, that little tiny extra effort, we need to find it. I think we are starting to get on the same page. I think we're making progress but it's getting harder and harder to say that when we're coming away with losses. It's easy to say it's bad luck but I think we're all getting sick of it and like Matt said at halftime, we gotta start creating our own luck. We can't talk about it being bad luck anymore."
The Breakers next play Sky Blue FC away on Friday, May 13 at 7 PM ET.