Starting XI: Jami Kranich, Brooke Elby, Kassey Kallman, Julie King, Christen Westphal, Mollie Pathman, Katie Schoepfer, Angela Salem, Stephanie McCaffrey, Louise Schillgard, Eunice Beckmann
It looked as though the Boston Breakers were finally, finally on track to not just win a game, but an away game as the final minutes against Orlando ticked away. They had taken a 1-0 lead early on through a goal in the 5’ by Mollie Pathman, but weren’t able to get another tally on the scoreboard over the rest of the game, despite a couple of golden chances rolling across the face of goal.
Matt Beard’s team seemed on track to try out their new squad rotation, with Brooke Elby and Christen Westphal as his left and right fullbacks respectively, and Katie Schoepfer stepping in at defensive mid instead of Rachel Wood. He had the team going up in a 4-3-3 with Pathman, the usual left fullback, pushed up into left midfield instead.
After Pathman’s early goal - a quick pounce on a badly handled save that the Orlando keeper fumbled pretty much right into Pathman’s feet - the Breakers were able to press Orlando for good stretches and deal with a lot of the early balls that Orlando attempted to send into the box, where Kranich handled them.
But then in the 34’ minute Westphal had to leave the field due to injury and Elise Krieghoff subbed in, which forced Elby to shift to right back and brought Pathman back down to left back, with Krieghoff going in as a forward. Elby also received a yellow card in the 34’ for sliding into Jasmyne Spencer from behind. The team looked discombobulated from having to adjust on the fly and it was a bit touch and go getting to the half at 1-0.
In the second half, the team came out in more of a 4-4-2 that shifted into a 4-2-4 on the attack.
Rachel Wood subbed in for Katie Schoepfer in the 54’, a good move from Beard considering Schoepfer hadn’t really been in the game until that point. Wood was right away more involved and more physical in trying to put up a shield in front of the back four.
Boston kept trying to attack, even as Orlando’s own attacks grew more dangerous. Boston had a few centering balls in the box where the forward running on was just a step too late. Louise Schillgard was everywhere, trying to corral the midfield and set up the forwards. Beckmann showed more promise too, playing longer and threatening more until she was subbed in the 77’ for Brittany Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe went left mid and the team shifted into a 4-5-1 with Stephanie McCaffrey as their lone striker. Ratcliffe eventually shifted right and Krieghoff went left; with so much shifting between players and formations, it’s a testament to Beard’s wish for his team to remain fluid.
But then, in the 89’ Elby received her second yellow card of the game for a nothing challenge while running next to Kristen Edmonds, who wrapped it up and sold it to the ref by going down at the top of the box. Elby was sent off and Orlando was given a free kick just above the 18. Edmonds placed it in the net to tie it at 1-1.
Boston didn’t seem to know how to react to this, especially after making it almost 90 minutes in the lead, with their first road win in over two years trickling out of their grasp. Despite Jami Kranich making a huge save in stoppage, Orlando followed it up with another goal as Edmonds scored again to make it 2-1, where the game finished.
Boston should have done better to regroup and keep 10 bodies behind the ball with only a little bit of stoppage left; at least they would have come away with a result. You can see in the highlights that on the second goal the back line is caught completely flatfooted, allowing Orlando’s forwards to race onto a ball won in midfield off a goal kick.
But at the same time it never should have been 1-1 in the first place; perhaps the ref, after Elby argued with him earlier in the game and already sitting on a yellow, was inclined to believe the worst and ate up Edmonds’ fall. It’s just a shame that such a poor decision cost the team so dearly - a road win right before they returned home would have been an invaluable boost to the Breakers, at least psychologically, especially after two plus seasons of unending disappointment.
It also probably feels worse for Breakers fans because the team actually did improve from their 7-1 handling by the Flash, and then from their 2-0 loss to Seattle. This is real progress, and it certainly felt like the team would get rewarded with a win. 90 minutes of hoping dashed cruelly by two goals in the dying minutes certainly feels much worse than 90 minutes of resignation to losing. Here’s hoping the team can dig just a little deeper and find some results when they return home.
The Breakers next play Sky Blue FC on Sunday, July 17 at 5 PM ET at Jordan Field.