It was a decent start for Boston against the North Carolina Courage. These two teams have met many times before when the Courage were still playing under the banner of the Western New York Flash and almost every time, the Flash served the Breakers a demoralizing loss. But if this is the same Flash roster under a new name, this is a very different Breakers roster in the familiar blue and white.
Yes, Boston spent most of the first half trapped in their own end of the field. They very rarely broke out and both Natasha Dowie and Adriana Leon were far too isolated to be of real use. But at the same time, the Boston defense was able to absorb North Carolina’s press forward. Christen Westphal stayed steady with her partner Megan Oyster, while Rosie White fought hard for possession in the midfield. Rose Lavelle did her best in the midfield as well, but NC’s pressure kept her from picking out the needed gaps, while windy conditions often sent the ball awry.
North Carolina broke the deadlock in the 32’ with a goal off of a set piece, Jess McDonald slamming home the ball in the midst of chaos in front of the Breakers net. But Boston didn’t deflate and continued to do their best to contain NC’s offense, limiting the chances from Lynn Williams and McDonald, although they didn’t get many chance of their own while dealing with NC’s pressure.
Teams went into halftime at 1-0, and then resumed their deadlock in the second half. Boston did better to try to control the midfield, with several chances going through Rose Lavelle as she attempted to get everyone moving forward. And a few times it seemed as though Adriana Leon or Julie King were able to put Natasha Dowie through, but each time NC was able to choke off the attack and move the ball out of danger.
Boston made their first sub in the 61’ with Rosie White coming out for Morgan Andrews. White had a tough day on the field, with several physical challenges as she battled all over the midfield. Andrews paired up with Salem, trying to open up play with her passing, but the connections weren’t there. The next sub was Amanda Frisbie for Christen Westphal in the 68’. Frisbie got her first minutes for Boston this season as a center back, trying to hit the long diagonal, once again attempting to use Boston’s width to their advantage and bypass NC’s midfield, but the decisive cross was not forthcoming.
Boston’s final sub was in the 80’ with Midge Purce coming off for Ifeoma Onumonu. Purce had a decent game, mostly staying left, but drifting to the right side in an attempt to support King and Leon and perhaps overload NC to exploit the space. Leon switched to the left side with Onumonu on the right, but neither one of them was quite able to get the ball in dangerous position. Leon especially seemed frustrated, perhaps the added weight courtesy of her past experience when she played with the WNY Flash, but she didn’t see enough of the ball, which also limited Dowie’s time on the ball.
Boston pushed a bit harder in stoppage, but full time ended at 1-0. For all that, it wasn’t the worst game from Boston. In fact, this was a pretty fitting showing for a top-of-the-table clash, with both teams frustrated in their scoring ends and battling for dominance in the middle. Compared to last season, when NC (then the WNY Flash) ran roughshod over Boston, a 1-0 loss off a set piece really isn’t that worrisome.
“It was a tough night with the conditions. It was frustrating that set plays obviously decided the game,” said head coach Matt Beard after final whistle, referring to the strong winds buffeting the field for most of the game. “Especially first half we took too many touches under the high pressure. If we move it quickly we can break the line like we did a couple of times in the second half.”
Beard wasn’t the only one to mention the wind; nearly every player interviewed, both Boston and North Carolina, mentioned how much it impacted the game. “It is frustrating because we don’t want to concede on set plays and we did give them a lot of corner kicks, especially on the first half,” said defender Allysha Chapman. “That wind was a big factor in the first half for sure.”
Despite the loss, Beard wasn’t down on himself or the team by any means. “We’re in a good place,” he said. “People were writing us off before the season. We’ve pushed things close tonight.... From my perspective we can draw on the positives we’ve had tonight. We were resilient. We still continued to create chances. We put them under a lot of pressure.”
The Breakers are away for their next game, facing the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, May 14 at 6 PM ET at Toyota Park.