STARTING XI: Libby Stout, Kylie Strom, Kassey Kallman, Whitney Engen, Julie King, Katie Schoepfer, Stephanie Verdoia, Louise Schillgard, Kristie Mewis, Kyah Simon, Natasha Dowie
The Boston Breakers started off looking strong against the Portland Thorns, or at least much stronger than they did against the Houston Dash a short four days ago. There was more pressure and connection in the midfield, leading to some early opportunities. Boston pushed wide and high fairly often and defenders were working their give ‘n gos to get up the flanks. Kylie Strom had some good sequences when she wasn’t cutting off Hayley Raso in partnership with Kassey Kallman. Meanwhile, Engen was disrupting Christine Sinclair in the box and and on the opposite end of the pitch Dowie was starting to dial in her shots.
Then in the 14’ the Thorns earned a corner kick that sailed merrily past the face of goal and no less than two Boston defenders before Sinclair found it and put it in the net to make it 1-0.
Boston didn’t deflate, not quite. They kept disrupting Portland, kept searching for Dowie, who was clearly the focal point of almost every attack. Dowie picked up an amazing ball from Louise Schillgard in the 25’ and was able to turn and shoot, but it was blocked by Michelle Betos. The attacking pressure continued intermittently when they weren’t fending off Lindsey Horan in the box, but too many long balls for Dowie resulted in turnovers that kept Portland coming in waves.
Then in the 40’ Horan darted past the back line to receive a short threaded pass, kicked the ball into Kallman’s arm, and earned a PK call. Nadia Nadim finished it calmly for Portland, making it 2-0.
Boston had another decent chance in the 43’ off a free kick when King got her head on the ball, but once again it was caught by Betos and the half ended at 2-0.
If Boston thought they might struggle back in the second half, those hopes were quickly squashed by Allie Long in the 48’ as she was able to run into the box completely unmarked and finish off a pass from Sinclair. Kallman was too high, caught when she tried to push into midfield to help step to a player with the ball, leaving King to cover the middle and Long free on Boston’s right.
Boston had some more piecemeal efforts at the Portland 18 but were pretty much stymied in long patches, pushing out and posing possession. Beard tried to spark things with two quick subs, Eunice Beckmann in for Kyah Simon in the 69’ and Brittany Ratcliffe in for Kristie Mewis in the 71’. Beckmann went into a central attacking position just beneath Dowie and Ratcliffe went right. Boston’s third sub was in the 75’ with Ghoutia Karchouni coming in for Katie Schoepfer as a like-for-like.
Boston still had none of the ball for a while, until Dowie fought hard in the 77’, allowing Boston to push into the attack again. Schillgard had time to set up an attack from the right, but the ball came to nothing once it was centered.
Portland scored their fourth in the 79’ when Long did very well to carry the ball into the box, split Engen and Kallman with a pass for Nadim as she ran on, and Nadim juked Stout and finished.
Boston got one back in the 84’ when Beckmann served a fantastic free kick into the box and King’s movement and vertical gave her enough space to really rise and get her head on the ball clear of anyone else.
Portland wasn’t done yet, though. They got a fast break in stoppage with sub Tobin Heath carrying the ball in and shooting; her shot was tipped aside by Stout but once again Nadim was there, this time bowling over Strom as she leapt to head the ball in and make it 5-1.
Dowie managed a bit of a half-hearted shot from distance in the rest of stoppage but the game ended there at 5-1.
Improvements were there from Houston in terms of slightly better pressure and possession in the midfield, but the defense lost its cool. Combined with lots of turnovers while they searched for ways to spring Dowie - which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily the wrong move as Dowie has scored that way before, but clearly wasn’t working tonight - that gave Portland plenty of opportunities to put Boston on the back heel. Boston has beaten struggling teams like FC Kansas City and the Orlando Pride this season, and they are improving their scoring rate, but they’re not able to hang with the playoff contention teams yet.
Now Boston hurries back home to play the Western New York Flash on September 7, their fourth game in 11 days after zig-zagging to Kansas City, back to Boston, to Portland, and back to Boston again. Kickoff against the WNY Flash is 7 PM ET at Jordan Field.