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Boston Breakers hold NC Courage to 1-0 with 4 starters out

Boston is better at home, but still couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

Starting XI: Prudhomme, Elby, Westphal, Oyster, King, Salem, Da Costa, Andrews, Haavi, Dowie, Leon

It was a rematch for Boston as they took on the North Carolina Courage at home. Boston came out of the gate relatively strong, looking for the quick goal. NC responded well though, absorbing the pressure and not allowing any strong looks on their goal. The Breakers were looking to move the ball quickly out to the flanks to use width through Haavi and King, while cutting off NC in the middle. But NC worked their way back into the game after about 10 minutes and put their own pressure on Boston.

But Boston held strong, and at least didn’t concede two goals in the first 15 minutes. They held NC to a lack of quality chances, although they didn’t really get quality chances of their own. It was the same old problem of not finding the infal pass, despite their efforts to avoid the NC midfield. Adriana Leon was very often isolated on the right, depriving Boston of dangerous chances in an important part of the attacking third, while Haavi was similarly not involved inough on the left.

Boston were left to try and start attacks from deep through Morgan Andrews, who looked for width whenever possible, although NC would close down those attempts as Boston didn’t hit the switch or find Dowie quickly enough. As the first half ticked down, Boston went into defense mode, trying to contain NC’s pressure. Sammy Jo Prudhomme was called on to make a great save in the 40’ as she blocked a low, hard shot near post.

NC finally broke the deadlock in the 44’ as they fed Ashley Hatch a small ball through the back line and she hit the back corner of the net to make it 1-0. Boston simply had no help going forward, whoever had the ball, with limited passing options presenting themselves and not a ton of speed to break the back line. Teams went into halftime at 1-0.

The second half started with a sub for Boston as Tiffany Weimer checked in for Amanda Da Costa. She went into the front line, sometimes shifting Dowie to the left as Boston tried to push forward with three, supported underneath by high-pressing mids. Andrews in particular was allowed to push higher in an effort to add more attacking pressure on Boston. And Boston did have more chances on NC than in the first half, especially as Morgan Andrews pushed higher and higher.

The Breakers made their second sub in the 61’ with Midge Purce in for Leon. The front line once again had Dowie as the highest striker, supported by Haavi, Weimer, and Purce under her in a line of three, although they allowed for a certain amount of fluidity. Andrews was the ideal example as she made a great step on the ball moments later and pushed the ball back into the attacking third, finding Dowie wide. Dowie’s shot went just wide of the post.

Boston had a few more chances, with both Haavi and Purce surging forward at times. Purce had a great push along the left side but her low shot to the far post was smothered by NC’s keeper.

Boston made their last sub in the 83’ with Haavi off for Ifeoma Onumonu, who went in at right forward to keep a front line of three with Purce, Dowie, and Onumonu. Onumonu tried to be that wide presence for Boston, sending in some crosses, but either no one was there to capitalize or the target striker was guarded well by NC’s defense.

The improved attack wasn’t enough for Boston in the end as they finished the game out at 1-0. Considering Boston had four starters out, 1-0 wasn’t really the worst result, but this game was also entirely winnable with NC not really pressuring Boston and often just trying to absorb their pressure before working the ball back out. With a little more effort and better positioning, Boston definitely could have gotten the equalizer, which might be the most frustrating aspect of the game. They were certainly missing Rose Lavelle and her ability to thread a well-weighted ball through the defense on which Dowie or Purce could pounce.

Still, Morgan Andrews was a bright spot as she kept her head up and looked to distribute from deep in the first half, then pushed up herself in the second. And Sammy Jo Prudhomme had a decent runout in her first game for Boston. She wasn’t especially tested by NC but had a few balls she needed to smother. Her distribution isn’t up to Abby Smith’s, but that’s something she can easily work on as she progresses with Boston.

Boston certainly looked better at home than they have on the road, but the lack of incisive movement in the final third is killing them. Either players don’t seem to trust that their teammates will make the appropriate run (and they’re not entirely wrong about that), or the forwards can’t quite go head to head on speed. If Boston can’t work out their scoring woes, then they’re looking at another struggle season.

Boston will next take on the Houston Dash away on June 28 at 8:30 PM ET.