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Boston Breakers stay tough to earn 1-1 draw with Washington Spirit

It's their second result of the season, and it feels well-earned

Stephanie Yang

With a little luck, the Boston Breakers managed to get a point out of a 1-1 tie with the Washington Spirit.

Starting XI: Libby Stout, Julie King, Whitney Engen, Kassey Kallman, Brooke Elby (Christen Westphal, 85'), Mollie Pathman, McCall Zerboni, Angela Salem, Louise Schillgard, Stephanie McCaffrey (Brittany Ratcliffe, 83'), Eunice Beckmann (Kyah Simon, 67')

With usual midfield engine Kristie Mewis out with an ankle sprain and the Spirit almost at full strength, head coach Matt Beard elected to return to his five-back formation, with Engen, Kallman, and King central and Pathman and Elby asked to sweep up and down the wings. King also was tasked with pushing forward more, and had some decent looks on goal.

Things got off to a rocky start when Washington scored early in the 13' off a scramble in the box that the defense failed to clear before a wide open Katie Stengel got her foot on it. Her shot rolled past Stout, who wasn't positioned to be able to get to it in time.

But then in the 14', referee Margaret Domka whistled for a penalty after a foul in the box. Schillgard stood over the ball and finished easily as Kelsey Wys went the wrong way. That tied it up at 1-1, and there the scoreline would stay for the rest of the game.

The rest of the first half saw lots of action along Boston's left, as defenders doubled down on any foray forward from Crystal Dunn. The ball also went forward through Boston's left, relying often on Pathman to start some movement forward. Boston finally managed to push forward and get into the box after about 20 minutes of give and take. McCaffrey worked her way into the game and started driving to the endline, earning Boston some corner kicks. The Breakers kept working the ball into the 18 until the half was over, as well as doing a better job of absorbing Washington's own attack.

The Breakers came out in the second half with more decent pressure, and more oomph from McCaffrey, who was the liveliest she's been all season. Perhaps the knowledge that Mewis wasn't on the field gave everyone a little extra push to help keep the offense running.

Kyah Simon subbed in for Eunice Beckmann in the 67'. Beckmann was holding the ball well under pressure, but wasn't dynamic enough in going forward and was often stifled by the Spirit defense.

Boston and Washington traded quick counters and the game stayed fairly contained. Dunn and Stengel's chances were limited, although Julie King came up huge in the 76' with a big goal-line block on a low, hard shot. Kyah Simon had her chance at the opposite end of the field in the 82', but she was forced to hold the ball and wait for help to arrive, and in the end wasn't able to get off a shot.

Boston made two late subs in Brittany Ratcliffe and Christen Westphal, both in like-for-like swaps with McCaffrey and Elby respectively. McCaffrey's sub was a bit of a puzzler, as she'd been playing well all game and didn't seem to be flagging in energy. Elby was clearly gassed after a good shift, especially in the second half, providing energy on the Breakers' right side.

Schillgard was also notable in her work for the night, keeping the ball under pressure until she could find connections in the attacking third. "I mean, I have been playing number 10 before, that's kind of my role. I can play on the wing as well. Of course [Mewis is] a good player, we miss her, but I just played my game," Schillgard said after the game.

It was a solidly-earned point from Boston, who didn't look overly troubled in defense thanks to their five-back. They still have the quintessential problem of not getting off enough shots and it doesn't seem so far like Beckmann is the definite answer to that problem. They also have yet to score from open play, with their first goal coming from a corner kick, and the second coming from a penalty.

It's a bit telling that though Kristie Mewis and Kyah Simon are #3 and #4 in shots in NWSL going into this game, no Boston player is in the top nine for shots on goal. "We've just lacked at times a little belief, I think," said Beard after the game. "Especially in the final third where we've created some real good goalscoring opportunities and we've either snatched it or not just been composed with the finish."

"Disappointed in the goal. I felt we showed a little bit too much respect in the build up to it, but we responded fantastically after that," Beard said. "I just said to the players after the game, now we need a little bit of consistency. We've picked up four points out of a possible nine in the last three, and we've just got to make sure that we show a little bit of arrogance within ourselves and that's something that we should be expecting to do sort of, going forward, whether it's winning games or whether it's drawing games."

So now the Breakers go on the road, playing their next four games on the road. They will next face the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, June 18 at 8 PM ET.