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Boston drops lead to Chicago in 1-1 tie

What a weird game.

Starting XI: Abby Smith, Amanda Frisbie, Julie King, Megan Oyster, Christen Westphal, Allysha Chapman, Angela Salem, Rose Lavelle, Rosie White, Adriana Leon, Natasha Dowie

It was a game of back-and-forth in the first half of Chicago vs Boston. Boston tried to open up strong from the starting whistle, with Rose Lavelle finding Adriana Leon in a nice pocket of space in front of goal in the 5’. But Chicago came back with their own attacking into space, with Christen Press doing her best to operate in the gaps between lines and open things up for Sofia Huerta and Stephanie McCaffrey.

Boston attacked up the left through Allysha Chapman, then tried to stretch the field wide right through Christen Westphal. They didn’t find a ton of crosses from either side, and several balls went directly into the waiting gloves of former Boston Breaker Alyssa Naeher.

Chicago surged back, leading to a cross in the 21’ that Abby Smith was forced to punch out. The very next minute she was quick off her line to try and get at the ball at Press’ feet, ultimately smothering a low bouncing shot. Then it was once again Boston’s turn; Lavelle took all the space given to her and more, but perhaps would have been better served trying to lay the ball off instead of trying to do everything herself.

Lavelle kept pushing up, trying to take control of the right with Westphal and putting in the decisive cross, but Chicago was all over her. The last chance of the half was Press returning the ball to Chicago’s attacking third with three Boston defenders converging on her and preventing the shot or the assist. Teams went into halftime at 0-0.

Boston made a sub to start the second half, bringing in Midge Purce for Frisbie. Purce went in as left forward and was okay as a target for Lavelle, but could’ve gotten stuck in a bit more. On the other end of the field, Oyster continued to work hard at covering Chicago’s runs into the box and fending off Press, helping the defense stay tight. Westphal moved back inside with Oyster, sending King back to the right wing.

Then in the 69’ Rose Lavelle once again sped into open space, but this time didn’t try to finesse her way through three defenders in the box and laid it off to Purce. Purce tried to cut inside, with her deflected shot falling to an open Lavelle. The almost laconic-looking shot from Lavelle curved smoothly into the side netting to make it 1-0.

It was a nice goal from Lavelle on her birthday, and following her graduation from college, with her family watching from the stands. But the lead was not to last.

Boston made a second sub in the 72’ with Rosie White out for Amanda DaCosta, attempting to increase their lead. But then in the 77’, an uncharacteristically uneven Abby Smith was unable to hold on to a shot, the ball rolling away from her. The closest defender touched it, then seemed to realize her error as Smith picked up the ball, with the ref promptly calling for an indirect free inside the box. All eleven players lined up in the box, leading to this entirely surreal image.

The wall worked and the ref ignored calls for handball, but Boston seemed shaken by the close call. Everyone pulled back to get behind the ball while at the same time Boston couldn’t quite work out of their own half. Their last sub was in the 83’ as Brooke Elby came in for Leon. Leon didn’t have the most effective game for Boston, though she was certainly battling hard for the ball.

Boston’s best chance to put the game away came in the 86’ as Midge Purce finally got into the box at speed and was in a one-v-one with Alyssa Naeher. Naeher was quick off her line, smothering Purce’s shot. Naeher immediately hit a long ball to counter for Chicago and Boston couldn’t cleanly get the ball clear, with Chicago pressing the momentum change. A nice ball lofted into the box found Press unmarked, allowing her to nod the ball past Smith and equalize at 1-1 in the 89’. Chicago kept up the pressure, finishing out the game with a tie.

This was kind of a disappointing result for Boston (and oh how the tables have turned that getting out of Chicago with a point is disappointing) but they could have come away with a 2-0 win. As even as the teams were in the first half, that was because both of them weren’t putting the ball in scoring position. Dowie was quite isolated and Leon didn’t help. Frisbie wasn’t really finding options from deep and Boston’s attempts to move the ball quickly in tight space looked like everyone was half a step off. For all that Lavelle wowed everyone with her speed and fine control of the ball, she also still tries to do too much by herself.

So yes, a disappointing tie is progress, but it’s still disappointing. At least being disappointed in Boston for not quite winning on the road is a better feeling than being disappointed in them for continuing a losing streak.

Boston now returns home and will face the Portland Thorns on Friday, May 19 at 7:00 PM ET.