STARTING XI: Smith, King, Oyster, Westphal, Chapman, Salem, Lavelle, White, Leon, Dowie, Weimer
The Boston Breakers had their game against the Seattle Reign well in hand, although you wouldn’t have predicted it based on the collective record between the two. Boston was 0-9-1 against Seattle going into Saturday night’s game, but they played like the record was level.
Boston opened up a little bit shaky, with Seattle putting early pressure on them, but they held up well until they were able to turn the tide and push back. Rose Lavelle was once again the key cog in the middle for Boston, working with Rosie White to move the ball through the midfield. Adriana Leon played like a championship was on the line and opened up the scoring in the 11’ when she received a short ball from Dowie in the box, held it cleverly, and finished it.
Leon’s feet were good all night long, as were Lavelle’s, especially when she was making deceptively simple passes to help open up the attack for her teammates. The Breakers were good all over the field, with the defense looking more cohesive, the natural progression of their work as they get further and further into the season. They were backstopped by the indomitable Abby Smith, who had several key saves on the night and looked very comfortable commanding her space in the box.
Boston scored again in the 15’, with Rose Lavelle bagging her first goal for the Breakers.
Boston subsided a bit as the first half went on, with Smith corralling all attempts to put balls in the six-yard box. A lot of their attacking went through the left, with Allysha Chapman knocking some nice balls up while not getting caught out while pushed high. Things got a bit chippy when Rosie White went bodily into Seattle GK Haley Kopmeyer while challenging for a ball, knocking Kopmeyer into the goal. White received a yellow card for the challenge, while Jess Fishlock had received her own YC minutes earlier for a foul on White.
The last good chance of the half came from Julie King in the 43’ as she hit a great cross to the far post, but it was tipped off target without a Breaker to get on the end of it. There were a few more balls forward, but the balls up to Dowie weren’t quality, and so Boston went into the half 2-0.
Seattle once again came out in the second half trying to pressure Boston early, but the back line held firm. Westphal and Oyster have clearly progressed since that first game against FC Kansas City and Westphal and Chapman did a great job of pinching off space on the left side.
Boston scored their third in the 53’ with Adriana Leon touching a beautiful ball over the top to Dowie, who was able to take it in stride and finish.
Abby Smith promptly made a big save a few minutes later, standing in just the right spot to block a strong ball hit in off a Seattle cross. Boston pushed out well off of that, as they did for most of the night.
Boston made their first sub of the night in the 52’ with Tiffany Weimer out for Midge Purce. It wasn’t Weimer’s greatest night; her one good look at goal rocketed over the top. Purce had a more effective time in that top left position, often exploiting space and managing a few rocket shots of her own.
Leon continued to go on a tear, wrongfooting players all over the right side of the field and making crosses or taking shots of her own, one of which dinged off the crossbar at an impossible angle.
The next sub for Boston was in the 72’ with Rosie White out for Amanda DaCosta, who slotted once again into the middle of the top three running underneath Dowie.
Seattle managed a chance late in the game in the 80’ when they finally managed to work the ball through a small gap in the defense, but Smith was more than up to the task. Once again her positioning was superb and she was able to parry the ball out with a quick reaction save on a point-blank blast in the six-yard box, followed by a punch-out on a Seattle corner kick.
Boston’s last sub was in the 85’ with Leon off and Ifeoma Onumonu in. Onumonu went in at right forward and showed a lot of gusto in pushing forward but needed a little bit more discipline to move back with the team when they were withdrawing on defense.
Boston showed general discipline in that area, not allowing Seattle to get in behind them and then turning right around to exploit Seattle’s defense by putting balls through or over for Dowie, Leon, or Purce.
“It’s a relief,” said Lavelle of her first club goal. “A weight off my shoulders. Hopefully there’s more to come. Honestly it was a really good ball by [Adriana Leon].”
Beard was as effusive as he’s ever been after a game. “We’re really pleased. We knew exactly what Seattle were gonna do,” he said. “We knew that they looked to press us high so we wanted to bypass that press so that’s why we went long, especially with Abby’s kicks.... If we would have got maybe two more goals I think that would have been a fair reflection on the performance tonight.”
This game, while acknowledging that Seattle were a bit poor on the night, was the culmination of a lot of hard work and reorganizing by Beard and the team. “Progression” is probably the watchword at this point; there is a clear line moving forward from that first 0-2 loss against FC Kansas City, through the 1-0 win over Sky Blue, and now to this exultant 3-0 win over Seattle.
Boston now look to extend their home winning streak as they face the North Carolina Courage on Sunday, May 7 at 8 PM ET.