It started with calamity as the Boston Breakers took on the Portland Thorns in the away leg of their two back-to-back games.
The Thorns came out of the gate ready to run and scored in the first minute off a corner kick, with Amandine Henry heading down a ball for Lindsey Horan, who put it in off Julie King, officially making it an own goal for Boston.
The Thorns promptly scored again in the 5’, with Henry taking a low shot from distance, the ball squeezing between a gap in defenders and slipping past Abby Smith’s outstretched gloves.
Boston took the entire rest of the half to shake off the shock; that, combined with Portland’s relentless pressure kept Boston on the back foot. Boston was able to sneak forward here and there, mostly through the flanks, and Emilie Haavi did not look terribly rusty in her debut after healing from a broken jaw. When Boston moved the ball around the 18, they looked capable of putting one on frame, but those moments were few and far between. They were far too slow on the ball and got overrun in the midfield; if Salem tried to step up to help reinforce the line of forwards, Lindsey Horan or Allie Long or Amandine Henry or even Christine Sinclair would force the turnover and put the ball in to the massive gap between midfielders and defenders, forcing Boston to haul back and defend desperately. Portland had 66% possession and 10 shots to Boston’s two in the first half.
Boston stepped up the urgency in the second half, though not by enough. They managed to take back a little more control in the midfield, and put in some runners in the box. Defending also grew a little less frenzied, keeping Portland at bay and giving Boston more restarts out of their own half. Westphal and Oyster seemed to stay mostly composed despite the barrage of players constantly trying to get into Boston’s box, as well as the speedy Raso trying to get around or through them every chance she got. And Allysha Chapman covered an intense amount of ground as she attempted to push through the left and then had to recover on every Thorns push back.
Boston made their first sub in the 62’ with Rosie White coming off for Morgan Andrews. Andrews nearly picked up an assist right away with a nice flick on a corner kick to put the ball right in the middle of the box, but as was so often the story for Boston on the night, no one was in good enough position to finish. Andrews fit in higher up on the field, trying to help Boston apply more pressure to Portland, while Lavelle dropped a little deeper, working defensively on the ball.
Boston made their second sb in the 72’ with Leon out for Tiffany Weimer. Weimer went left, where she didn’t get enough of the ball as Boston pressed hard along the right. Boston continued to push up though; Andrews looked very comfortable on the ball as she held it to buy time and look for the good passing option. But Haavi was fading by this point, perhaps to be expected of a player in her first game of the season, especially coming off injury, which limited their ability to combine through her on the right.
Boston’s final sub was in the 75’ as Natasha Dowie came off for Midge Purce, who took her spot as the highest forward. Lavelle and Purce worked the ball pretty well at times; all the focus on the right left Weimer in space, but the few balls they managed to put in to her didn’t quite drop right or got pushed back out by Portland’s defense.
Boston’s bad night was completed in the 91’ when Allysha Chapman got sent off with a straight red after a fast, hard tackle into the ball at Hayley Raso’s feet. Chapman got the ball - and continued right through Raso, leaving Boston to finish out stoppage with 10. Full time ended at 2-0.
So. Boston still has yet to win on the road. They were handled for the entire first half by a confident, flowing Portland team. Was this the product of fatigue from travel plus not quite being able to hang with Portland’s outsize midfield? It’s not that they were simply poor; their response in the second half showed they could have dug back into the game a little more. But the first half was a bit of a disaster, with Lavelle looking too laconic on the ball at times and subsequently getting picked, while passes through Rosie White ended up going astray. Adriana Leon had some finesse moments and looked like she was keying in on her teammates, but it never clicked. Dowie kept having to drop deeper to help everyone dig the ball out and couldn’t get a look on goal. If Boston had played the first half the way they did the second half, they’d probably be escaping Portland with at least a point. As it is, they’ll have to regroup for their next game, also away, against the Orlando Pride on June 3. The quest for away points continues.