STARTING XI: Jami Kranich, Kylie Strom, Kassey Kallman, Rachel Wood, Brooke Elby, Kristie Mewis, Louise Schillgard, Angela Salem, Kyah Simon, Eunice Beckmann, Natasha Dowie
Another bad night for Boston as they attempted to gain some control over the end of their season.
It was the conclusion of a rough travel stretch of home-and-away games, with the added cherry on top of missing two key defenders in Whitney Engen and Julie King. Head coach Matt Beard started Rachel Wood next to Kassey Kallman, but Houston’s offense gave Wood fits all night long. Kealia Ohai in particular kept penetrating the back line, turning the corner around a defender to either shoot or cross.
Boston started off bright enough with an early chance in the 2’ when Kyah Simon got her foot on the ball int he box, found Beckmann, and Beckmann shot it just wide. But even as Angela Salem did her best to stop Houston’s momentum through the middle, Boston slowly got penned into their own half. After the first ten minutes Houston was searching for that definitive pass, opening up Boston’s defense. Carli Lloyd kept finding her forwards, either putting in Janine Beckie or Ohai with regularity.
There were some hopeful balls forward for Dowie, but without enough accuracy to be particularly threatening. Houston made Boston pay for their listless attempts to get out when Lloyd once again picked out Beckie, who ran past Wood and nutmegged Kranich at a steep angle to make it 1-0.
Boston finally managed to get into Houston’s box in the 29’ when Kyah Simon managed a big clearance and Dowie chased it down, forcing a Boston throw in. The throw in once again went through Dowie, who tried to set up Beckmann on the far post, but the ball went out and back into Houston control.
Houston scored their second goal in the 35’ when Lloyd once again picked out Beckie, this time beating Strom on the right. Beckie crossed the ball for Ohai, who was by herself, and finished it one-time into an open net. Once again Wood wasn’t able to keep up with Ohai and was out of position, still running into try and catch Ohai while she had the space and time to shoot.
Boston’s best opportunity of the half was a long-range effort from Dowie in the 42’, forcing Lydia Williams to leap and tip it away. But that was it from Boston and the teams went into the half 2-0.
Once again Boston came out looking brighter than they had, working the ball to the top of the 18 and Beckmann getting of a shot that went sky high. Dowie had another attempt in the 48’ attempting to chip Williams. But once again the team faded and Houston returned to poking holes in Boston’s back line. Ohai’s speed burned Strom and Elby in equal measure, although the defense held up better than they did in the first half in not getting caught out centrally as much.
Boston made its first sub in the 65’ with Brittany Ratcliffe on for Beckmann, a good sub as Ratcliffe could potentially spark more on the offense with her runs. Boston made two more subs in the 74’ with Katie Schoepfer in for Schillgard and Elise Kriegoff in for Dowie.
Krieghoff immediately tallied a goal, scoring in the 75’ when when a sprinting Ratcliffe forced a turnover and the ball bounced to Mewis, who got off a nice hard shot that hit the post. Krieghoff fought Cari Roccaro for the ball and and finished to the far corner of the net to make it 2-1.
It seemed for a few minutes like Boston might make a 2-2 game out of it, but Ohai found Lloyd in the box and she blasted a laser into the net to make it 3-1 in the 78’.
Houston put the game to bed in the 81’ when Wood took down Denise O’Sullivan in the box and the referee awarded a penalty kick. Lloyd finished it calmly to make it 4-1, which is how the game ended.
Boston didn’t have much of anything in this game. The defense was unable to patch over the holes; the midfield had no connectivity; the forwards were isolated. Houston ran most of the field for most of the night. Still, it did come at the tail end of a long stretch of games in not a lot of time, so there’s still reason to hope that with a long rest the team can end the season strong at home.
Boston will play their last game of 2016 on Saturday, September 24 at 7 PM ET against the Western New York Flash. If they manage to beat WNY and the Seattle Reign win against the Houston Dash, Seattle will take WNY’s playoff spot, so there are still playoff implications in the result. For at least one night, Seattle fans will all be Boston fans too.