STARTING XI: Libby Stout, Brooke Elby, Kassey Kallman, Whitney Engen, Julie King, Louise Schillgard, Angela Salem, Kyah Simon, Eunice Beckmann, Kristie Mewis, Natasha Dowie
It looked like Boston was going to need to sit back early as the Western New York Flash came out of the gate with immediate pressure, looking for early balls to Jess McDonald in the box with Lynn Williams and Lianne Sanderson. But it was not to be as Boston got on the board first in the 4’ as Julie King made a fantastic run up the right side to open up for Kristie Mewis; King then found Kyah Simon in the box, and Simon was able to turn and shoot.
WNY immediately returned with pressure, moving to control the midfield while Boston did its best to close down space and disrupt their passing. They did a decent job of disruption, but not with hanging on to the turnovers, and the midfield got grittier and grittier for the next fifteen minutes or so.
Boston was mostly relying on the fast break until about the 30’, once again looking for Tasha Dowie on the run. It almost worked a couple of times, except that Dowie was forced each time to hold up her play and wait for help, by which time the Flash would force another turnover.
Unfortunately, WNY took the decision out of Boston’s hands with an equalizer in the 38’ from Jess McDonald, despite numerous shouts for an offside call from the Boston bench. Libby Stout blocked the first shot, but Kassey Kallman got tangled up with Stout’s legs and wasn’t able to clear the rebound, which McDonald finished with authority.
The teams returned to struggling in the midfield for control after that. Boston looked better when they were able to engage their outside backs to create some service, especially when Julie King was able to get up and hit the ball into the box from the right. Still, it wasn’t enough to break the deadlock, and teams went into the half tied at 1-1.
WNY was back in control early in the second half, with Samantha Mewis looking to feed McDonald or Lynn Williams to feet.
But once again Boston gave the lie to WNY’s pressure with another go-ahead goal, this time from Tasha Dowie, who now has three goals in five games for the Breakers. Dowie tapped the ball back to Louise Schillgard, who promptly chipped it over the back line for Dowie’s fast break. Dowie was able to touch the ball down to her left foot and snapped off a shot into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Dowie tried it again in the 58’, going for an ambitiously cheeky chip over WNY GK Sabrina D’Angelo, who was off her line. Dowie’s ball went over, but it was nice to see Dowie looking up and taking a chance.
WNY began pushing back again, trying to pen Boston into their own half. Libby Stout had a great grab in midair off a WNY CK in the 71’, followed by a deft stop from Whitney Engen in the 72’ as the team worked to keep WNY out.
Boston made their first sub in the 74’ with Brittany Ratcliffe on for Eunice Beckmann. Beckmann had faded a bit as the game wore on and it was a decent call to bring on the energetic Ratcliffe. The game went back and forth a bit more as both teams searched for stable possession to build into an attack. WNY got it in the 76’ as Makenzy Doniak found Lynn Williams lingering between Kassey Kallman and Brooke Elby. Williams beat them both with speed and was able to shoot pretty much one on one with Stout, finishing past her to tie it at 2-2.
Boston made two more subs, the first in the 82’ with Kylie Strom in for Brooke Elby, and the next in the 85’ with Stephanie Verdoia in for Kristie Mewis. Boston started moving teh ball up again and almost managed to put together a chance for Verdoia as soon as she was in, but she was unable to hold up play long enough for play to arrive in the box.
WNY kept pressing, with McDonald and Williams threatening to the last. Engen got caught on the wrong side of McDonald, who almost managed to feed Williams running at the goal. In the end, Libby Stout had to put together a series of fantastic saves all the way into stoppage to keep it tied at 2-2, including tipping one ball over the bar and flying off her line to punch another ball out. Her hard work ensured the tie, allowing Boston to take a couple of points off WNY and put a little sliver of doubt into their playoff hopes.
It was a much better performance from Boston after a defensive collapse against the Portland Thorns just three days ago.
“I’m pleased that we’ve got a point,” said head coach Matt Beard after the game. “We showed a lot of character, a lot of resilience. All they do is lump the ball forward, look to get set plays, look to get long throw ins, and they put you under a lot of pressure with that. Obviously it’s been effective all year. Especially with the travel that we’ve had and the games that we’ve had in a short period of time, I thought the players’ application tonight was fantastic.”
“For me the most pleasing thing was our attitude,” said Dowie. “Today, the way that we went out, every single one of us gave 110% today and I loved it... Obviously I’m over the moon to get another goal here at home in front of our home fans who have been great all season. Disappointed not to come away with the win because I think we thoroughly deserved it. I think we played better football than them.”
Still, Beard was not a fan of the refereeing, disagreeing with them not calling McDonald’s goal offside. “Officiating’s tough, I get that, and they can only give what they see,” he said. “But when it’s a decision-making, especially for the first goal...[the linesman] couldn’t tell me who kept [McDonald] on. He said the player who was standing with her. Well that’s not an answer. You know who’s kept them on; it’s either the right back, the center back, or it’s the left back, but it was neither, because she was two yards in front. So it had an effect on the game, yes.”
It wasn’t just the Breakers who had thoughts on the refereeing. McDonald also agreed that the reffing was subpar. “Refereeing really and truly can make a huge impact and a huge difference in the game,” she said after the match. “And the fact that the referee today seemed a little bit of an amateur, it kind of let the game sort of get out of hand, which made it a bit uncomfortable. Everybody felt uncomfortable from the coaching staff on both teams. The players are yelling at him but he had no control of the game, which, I sort of lost respect for him. One thing you have to do going into a game is respect the referee and we really didn’t have any for him today.”
WNY needed to win this game in order to clinch a playoff spot, but with only one point, the Seattle Reign still have the dim light of hope that they could sneak up from their #5 position. Meanwhile, Boston’s next game is away against the also-eliminated Houston Dash. They’ll kick off at 7 PM ET on Sunday, September 11.