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Boston Breakers lose 2-0 to FC Kansas City in first game

Boston’s 2017 has gotten off to a rocky start.

Abby Smith in preseason.
Stephanie Yang

Starting XI: Abby Smith, Allysha Chapman, Christen Westphal, Megan Oyster, Midge Purce, Amanda DaCosta, Angela Salem, Adriana Leon, Rosie White, Rose Lavelle, Natasha Dowie (c)

The Boston Breakers got off to a bit of a slow start in their debut game of 2017 and FC kansas City. Beard played an incredibly attacking starting XI, putting Midge Purce in his back four as a right back. Early nerves and Purce’s unfamiliarity with the position bit the Breakers early on, with KC forward Syd making her run on a ball over the top, pouncing, and finishing one time to make it 1-0 in the 7’.

The back line took another 10 or 15 minutes to settle in, with Leroux’s fellow forward Amy Rodriguez running through massive gaps in the back line and getting her own fair chances on goal. When Oyster and Westphal grew a bit more paranoid of Rodriguez, the defense was able to throttle Rodriguez a bit more, although Smith was called upon to make a huge save in the 14’ off a point blank shot from Rodriguez.

The offense started to dig into the game, although too much of Boston’s pushes forward were going through the left side with Chapman and Leon overlapping. The more Lavelle and White got involved centrally the better chances Boston got. Angela Salem got off a long range shot in 31’ and Lavelle had her own shot blocked point blank the 34’. White made a lot of good calls from that central position, taking the ball to space and trying to open up the back line with her passing. But the forwards and the midfields weren’t quite all firing at the right time, making for uneven bursts of possession.

Unfortunately Boston came out in the second half once again needing to catch up to the game. Amy Rodriguez served a great ball over the top to Shea Groom, who got it endline and was able to cut it back for Rodriguez while Oyster trailed her in the box. Rodriguez didn’t miss from that distance and made it 2-0 to KC in the 48’.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, who was shaping up to have quite a game, she caught her foot on the grass and hurt her knee while shoulder-to-shoulder with Oyster a few minutes later. Rodriguez went down in obvious pain and seemed to know it was serious. She was stretchered off and KC was forced to sub in former Breaker Brittany Ratcliffe in the 54’.

The game resumed, but in a clearly deflated atmosphere. Boston subbed Ifeoma Onumonu in the 63’ for Amanda DaCosta, moving Onumonu top left, with Leon going right and Lavelle pinching in centrally. Boston had a big chance right away with a pinball situation landing in the box off a corner kick from Lavelle, but neither Onumonu nor Dowie could quite get a foot to the ball.

Boston made their second sub in the 73’ with Tiffany Weimer on for Leon. Weimer definitely made an impact in her time on the field and was able to control the right side and send in plenty of service for Dowie, but once again everyone was slightly off of proper calibration. Weimer created a great chance in the 79’ by plopping the ball down right in the center of a scrum of Boston and KC players, but Nicole Barnhart stayed strong on her line to keep out the bobbled shots.

Boston’s last sub was in the 81’ with Rosie White out for Morgan Andrews, who slotted into the midfield and tried to create some service from deep. Lavelle also moved more centrally, but at this point seemed to be fading a bit. Abby Smith did well to keep the scoreline down when she read a cross in the 84’ and came smartly off her line to intercept it. In fact Smith looked pretty good for most of the game, and will hopefully only get sharper as she completely returns after a season-ending knee injury in 2016. Boston began resorting to some balls over the top as time ticked down on the half but in the end weren’t able to find a finish and the game ended 2-0.

It wasn’t the strongest possible start for Boston, especially on the back line, but neither was it the weakest. The defense definitely needs a lot of work, especially if Beard is going to insist on playing extremely attacking fullbacks. Chapman is a veteran and can mostly handle it, but rookie Purce will need plenty of studying and fine-tuning. There’s also the White-Lavelle problem. White is invaluable in the center and knows how to pick out a simple pass, which naturally forces Lavelle more to the right. In fact Beard was playing a formation similar to what Ellis did for Lavelle, with Lavelle on the right but allowed to pinch in, and with a fast RB behind her to help run into the space. But Purce is no Kelley O’Hara, at least not yet, and Lavelle wasn’t working central enough nor was she owning the right enough to make a difference for a lot of the first half. Still, she had her moments and got off her shots, as well as demonstrated her ability standing over corners and free kicks, and there’s every reason to believe she will continue to settle in as a large part of Boston’s offense.

Another good side of the game was that Boston did manage to dig in a little and you could see that the midfield and the forwards have potential. Angela Salem and Rosie White can operate together as a unit and if they had managed to feed Dowie a bit more, perhaps Boston might have rescued a goal tonight. As it was, Dowie was very isolated for large swathes of the game, putting the “lone” in lone striker. On the night the new look Boston defense was too full of holes to preserve a result, something Beard will surely be looking to address as the season progresses.

Boston now returns to Jordan Field for their home opener on Sunday, April 23 at 4 PM ET against Sky Blue FC.