The Boston Breakers lost 3-2 to Sky Blue FC in their return to Jordan Field, but despite the scoreline, the team showed actual progress in two areas: 1) it scored multiple goals in a game for the first time this season and 2) it scored goals in consecutive games for the first time this season.
Is that a low bar to scuttle over? Well then you haven’t been paying attention. Getting over any bar right now is good, and it’s created an actual sense of hopeful contemplation for the near future. That’s acres better than the resigned malaise that has long infused Breakers loyalists.
STARTING XI: Jami Kranich, Mollie Pathman, Kassey Kallman, Julie King, Christen Westphal, Katie Schopefer, Angela Salem, Stephanie McCaffrey, Stephanie Verdoia, Eunice Beckmann
The Breakers started off bright just like they did against Orlando, pushing hard against Sky Blue to get an early goal in the 3’. Verdoia started the play with a good interception; her excellent ball through for McCaffrey led to a cross and a scramble in front of goal, where Angela Salem eventually pinged the ball in.
From there Boston kept attacking and pushing until Sky Blue settled down and pushed back. Sky Blue got a little more fuel for that pushback in the 27’ when Westphal side-tackled Leah Galton in the box and the ref called for a penalty. Sarah Killion finished into the corner despite Kranich correctly guessing which side to go and it was tied at 1-1.
Sky Blue picked up a second goal not ten minutes later when Westphal didn’t track her runner into the box on a cross and Leah Galton nodded it in.
Boston had a golden opportunity to equalize at the end of the half when McCaffrey found herself in a 1v1 with the goalkeeper, but couldn’t get a clear shot. The team continued trying to hit Beckmann and McCaffrey with quick long balls but the half ended 2-1.
Boston came out with pressure in the second half, but still weren’t penetrating the box very well. As they settled in they managed to find a few gaps in the back line, working carefully through the midfield or hitting a good through pass from deep, like a nice threaded ball from Kassey Kallman in the 52’ that found Pathman pushed high and waiting to send in the cross. The Breakers crossed the ball in front of the box several times, but had no one there to finish.
Eventually Beard made a double sub at the 61’, pulling Schoepfer and Westphal and subbing in Brittany Ratcliffe and amateur callup Kylie Strom. The team went into a 3-5-2, with Pathman and Ratcliffe pushed wide and dropping back to make it five in the back line as necessary. Strom made up the central three with Kallman and King, and Verdoia got pulled back to work as more of a defensive mid with Salem in support of Beckman, Schillgard, and McCaffrey.
Boston made their third sub in the 73’ with Beckmann off for Elise Krieghoff, only to see Sky Blue score a minute later in the 74’ off a corner kick that got headed down past Kranich.
Boston didn’t deflate, though. They kept pushing managed to get one back in the 86’, a long free kick from Schillgard flicked in on a header by Julie King to make it 3-2.
The Breakers kept trying to push back out through the dying minutes of stoppage but Sky Blue kept them contained and managed their time, ending things at 3-2.
So it was a loss, but two things stood out: the multiple goals, one from open play and one from a set piece, and the continued work after going down by two. There was no wind out of the sails as in that awful 7-1 loss to Western New York. There was a team that genuinely seemed to think they could at least salvage point out of giving up an early lead. Going from the sheer relief of just scoring a goal for the first time all season in May to now scoring multiple goals and believing they could get more is a good signal for the team.
Beard was a little more hesitant to outright call it progress considering they still lost. "It's frustrating because we wanna be winning games," he said after the game. "I can say the players do come in and work and we work hard as a coaching team just to make sure that we turn it round, but for whatever reason we've just not crossed the line in some of these performances this year."
Of note, this was Mollie Pathman's last game for Boston after two-and-a-half seasons and 54 caps. Pathman is retiring in order to start physical therapy school and is leaving mid-season in order to accept a scholarship. Pathman visibly fought back tears at the post-game presser while reminiscing on her time with the team. "I'm really thankful for the organization. I was really glad to play here all three years of my professional career, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to starting a new chapter in life, moving on, and I'll become the Breakers' number one fan."
The Breakers have a by next week, then they'll play the Orlando Pride on Sunday, July 31 at 6 PM ET at Jordan Field.